Keeping lunch safe: back to school edition

With Jack starting kindergarten a couple of weeks ago (we have year-round school in Raleigh), our luxurious summer schedule came to an end. No biggie for me as I’m in the habit of a 5:30 am wake up (it’s quiet and it gives me an excuse for going to bed at 9pm) but it does mean packing a lunch everyday that will stand-up to no refrigeration.

With traditional schools firing up their year in North Carolina this week and only a couple of weeks away from Labor Day the requisite back to school food safety coverage is firing up.Unknown-5

According to WJHG 7 in Tampa Bay, there are some things to think about when packing a lunch.

Food safety is vitally important. Freeze juice boxes (100% juice), small water bottles or small gel packs and place in the bag. The juice and water will keep other foods cool and will thaw by lunchtime. Use an insulated thermos for hot (140 or higher) or cold (40 or cooler) food. For best results rinse out a thermos with very hot water to heat it before adding hot items or rinse it out with ice water to chill the thermos before adding cold items.

Keeping food cold or hot slows bacterial growth and is essential for food safety.
o Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the ‘Danger Zone” – the temperature between 40 – 140F. 

Keep perishable foods refrigerated until time to leave home.

Use an insulated bag, if possible, rather than a paper bags. It is so much better for keeping food cold. 

Fortunately for us Jack’s love of individually packed shelf-stable hummus and apple sauce supplemented with peanut butter sandwiches, temperature isn’t much of a factor.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.