Safety tips for bagged lunches

Packing your kids lunches for school is one way to make sure that they are eating the foods you want them to eat. It’s good to pack a nutritious, waste-free lunch, but it’s even better to make sure that the lunch is safe from anything that might make your kids sick. Lunches that sit around for hours in a room temperature locker or cubby need a little extra care.

Here are seven tips to packing a safer lunch:

1. Use a nontoxic insulated lunch bag. It will help keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

2. Buy a BPA-free reusable beverage bottle. If a reusable plastic bottle doesn’t say BPA-free somewhere on its packaging, don’t purchase it.

3. Pack an ice pack with cold foods like sandwiches, yogurts and fruits. (If bringing gel packs to and from school isn’t practical, you can slip a frozen juice box into a lunch box or sack lunch. By the time lunch rolls around, the juice should be thawed enough to drink, but the food should still be cool.)

4. Use a nontoxic insulated thermos for hot foods. You’ll get the most out of your thermos if you fill it with boiling water and let it stand for a few minutes before emptying it and putting in the hot soup, chili, etc.

5. The cooler or hotter a food starts out in a lunchbox, the better. A sandwich prepared the night before and stored in the refrigerator until right before it’s time to leave for school will be cooler than a sandwich made and put in a lunchbox an hour before leaving for school. It also means that hot foods should be heated up as to as high a temperature as possible and immediately be put in a thermos right before leaving for school. The timing can be tricky on a hectic school morning, but it’s worth it.

6. Throw away all perishable uneaten food that comes home in the lunchbox. Don’t try to save it for tomorrow. By the end of the school day, even an ice pack or an insulated thermos will have lost its effectiveness.

7. Wash the lunch bag and all containers after each use with hot, soapy water.

Please post any additional tips.

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