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Food Safety 101: Keeping Bagged Lunches Safe

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Food Safety 101: Keeping Bagged Lunches Safe

When packing lunch for school, it’s important to keep food safety in mind!

Finding healthy and creative lunch ideas is a challenge in itself, but don’t forget that keeping food safe is equally important. Here’s why it’s important to keep food safe and some easy tips to follow when packing your little one’s lunch.

What’s all the Fuss?

If you’re thinking that it’s only a sandwich, think again! Foods held at unfavorable conditions support the growth of harmful bacteria that can make your child sick. These include foods such as yogurt, cheese, meats, chicken, sliced melon, eggs, fish and tofu. A child’s immune system is not as strong as an adult so they’re more susceptible to becoming ill.

Top 5 Food Safety Tips

Getting ready to prepare another lunch? Although these tips may seem like common sense, many folks forget to follow them and they can make a world of difference.

Food safety tips for cooking with the kids and the Super Crew#1: Wash Your Hands!

Sounds easy, but many parents forget to wash their hands before packing lunch. If you take a break to talk on the phone, do another task, or use the restroom, don’t forget to re-wash your hands before continuing to make lunch. Read our Super Crew safety food tips with the kids!

#2: Mind the Time

Cold foods can safely remain at room temperatures for up to 4 hours. If it’s a very hot day, this would be much less time. Ask the school what time your child eats lunch. This way you can add some extra ice packs for those super hot days.

#3: Keep Cold Foods Cold

Find out where bagged lunches are stored. Some schools actually keep them in the refrigerator, but most do not. You want the food to stay around 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Use an insulated container and surround it with 1 or 2 ice packs. Note that the ice packs tend to “burst”—so keep them in a small ziplock bag to avoid a mess.

#4: Keep Hot Foods Hot

For a change of pace from the usual sandwich, pack some leftovers from last night’s dinner. Use a thermos to keep food warm. Be sure it will get heated to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit—this will destroy any bacteria that are already in the food.

#5: Toss Suspect Leftovers

Any old refrigerated food items should be tossed including yogurt, cheese, milk, meat, poultry, sliced fruits, and veggies. The same goes for any leftover cooked food. These foods support the growth of bacteria and you don’t want to risk it. As the saying goes, “when in doubt, throw it out.”


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About the Author

Picture of Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN

Toby is a registered dietitian and a Certified Dietitian Nutritionist with over 15 years of experience in the food and nutrition industry. Toby is the founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition where she provides nutrition and food safety consulting services for various entities. She is a nutrition expert for where she writes for their Healthy Eating Blog and helps develop content and analyze the nutrition information for recipes. Toby is also the nutrition advisor for Sears’ FitStudio where she oversees the nutrition content and contributes nutrition articles to the FitStudio community. Toby has also written extensively, appeared on a variety of media oulets, counseled both in person and online, and has a great deal of teaching experience. Toby has written extensively and her publications list includes The All New Joy of Cooking (under Know Your Ingredients), where she helped compile information on over 300 foods. She was also a reviewer of the Jewish cultural food section of the web-based Nutrition Care Manual, which is compiled by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help guide practitioners and Cultural Food Practices also published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Other writing samples can be viewed here. She has appeared in a variety of media outlets including The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Woman’s World Magazine, Today’s Dietitian Magazine,, Good Morning America Health, Good Day New York (WNYW Fox5 NY), Self Magazine, Us Weekly Magazine, WebMD, Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine, Working Mother Magazine, The New York Daily News, Fitness Magazine, and several articles published on Scripps Howard Foundation Wire. - See more at:

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