Over the next several weeks, millions of U.S. children will head back to school with a lunch in hand.
But how you packed that lunchbox could mean the difference between a healthy meal and a trip to the hospital.
Approximately one in six Americans are sickened with food poisoning each year, and children are the most vulnerable.
The agencies want parents to keep in mind, it’s not just what you pack in a child’s lunch but how you pack it.
Nationwide, approximately 42,000 salmonella infections are reported to the CDC each year; half of those cases involve infants and school-age children.
That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Agriculture put together these six tips to keep your child healthy:
TIPS TO KEEP YOUR KIDS HEALTHY
- If you are making lunch the night before, be sure to wash your hands and use clean cutting boards, utensils and countertops. Making lunch on the same surfaces you used to prepare raw meat or poultry for dinner may result in cross-contamination and lead to illness.
- Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for meat and poultry.
- Cook foods to the right temperature using a food thermometer.
- If the lunch contains perishable food items like lunch meat, eggs and yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources (e.g. freezer packs or frozen water bottles)
PACK A SAFE LUNCH
- Frozen juice boxes can also be used as freezer packs. By lunchtime the juice should be thawed and ready to drink.
- Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag. Use an insulated box or bag instead.
- Children should was their hands for 20 seconds with warm soapy water before eating. Have the sing the ABCs twice while washing if they sometimes finish early.
- If you’re packing a hot lunch like soup, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty and then put it in the hot food. Tell your child to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot – 140 degrees F or above.
- After lunch discard all leftover food, used packaging and paper bags. Do not reuse packing because it could contaminate other food.