Food Safety in School Lunches, Work Lunches, Leftover Lunches

Food SafetyMaking a good portable lunch is getting harder and harder for me these days with so much going on and so little time in the morning to get out the door in the morning.

Personally, I like the Medifast plan I am on since I don’t have to think as hard during this initial fat burning mode but I do still  kids and a husband that count on me to show some interest in cooking when we are not running to various events, work and other miscellaneous kid activities.

When I do cook (like the awesome roast we ate last night), I like to save the leftovers, of course, and either pull them out later in the week or take them into work as my “work” lunch. My husband never takes in a lunch and I’ve started giving the girls money for the cafeteria. The cash line is apparently better than the school account line since you can get fresher items than the mass produced meals.

All that to say, if anyone is bringing in a lunch, it’s up to me to pack the items safely and get them to the refrig at work where I can microwave them later to heat properly. The USDA has a wonderful Snapguide about food safety in school lunches which is as follows:

Check out How to Pack a Safe & Satisfying School Lunch by Food Safe Campaign (Ad Council, USDA, HHS) on Snapguide.

Here are some more recommended tips:

Tip #1: If the lunch you’re packing contains perishable food items like cold cut meats, eggs and yogurt, make sure to pack it with freezer packs or keep it otherwise chilled.  Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the “Danger Zone” — the temperatures between 40 and 140 °F (4.4 °C and 60 °C). So, perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long.
Tip #2: Frozen juice boxes can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze juice boxes overnight and use as freezer packs. By lunchtime, the juice should be thawed and ready to drink!
Tip #3: Pack lunches in an insulated, soft-sided lunch bag. Lunches with perishable food items can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in an old-fashioned brown paper bag.
Tip #4: If there is a refrigerator at school, tell your child to keep their lunch inside. But leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.
Tip #5:  After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.

Visit to learn about best food safety practices, utilize “Ask Karen,” an online database with nearly 1,500 answers to specific questions related to preventing foodborne illnesses, in both English and Spanish, or to call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline.

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