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Safe Lunch Safety Guide

Make sure your child’s lunch passes from kitchen to cafeteria in A+ condition with these helpful home food safety rules from the American Dietetic Association/ConAgra Foods.

Stay Cool For School

Perishable foods should not be left out of refrigeration for more than two hours — but according to a new survey of kids conducted by the American Dietetic Association , four out of five kids say they dont have access to a refrigerator at school. Help keep your childs lunch safe by packing it in an insulated lunch bag or lunch box and including an ice pack or frozen beverage container.

Skip The Shortcuts

Most parents (73 percent) prepare their childs lunch in the morning before school which can make for an early morning time-crunch! Take the time to avoid shortcuts that can lead to foodborne illness. Make sure counter surfaces are clean and any remnants of last nights dinner are long gone to prevent cross-contamination.

Start Each Day With A Clean Slate

Half of all kids who carry a lunch box or lunch bag to school say that their container is not cleaned every day, while a small percentage (8 percent) say its “hardly ever” cleaned. Start each day off fresh by making sure your childs lunch box or lunch bag is washed with warm soapy water after each use — its just one more way to keep lunchtime bacteria at bay!

Chill Out Right At Night

If you are one of the 26 percent of parents who prefers to prepare their childs lunch the night before, make sure perishable food items — such as yogurt, tuna salad and meat or cheese sandwiches — are properly stored in a refrigerator set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Not sure what the temperature is in your fridge? Invest in a refrigerator thermometer to keep accurate tabs on the temp.

Create A (Shelf) Stable Environment

More than two — thirds of all kids say they want to eat healthy foods for lunch — but healthy doesnt have to mean perishable. If refrigeration is unavailable, consider substituting perishables with shelf-stable foods such as trail mix, granola bars, bagels, carrot and celery sticks, whole fruit, single-serve applesauce, cans of tuna, and peanut butter.

Leave Leftovers Behind

One in four kids say they keep their lunchtime leftovers for an afternoon snack — but not all foods can go the distance. Encourage your kids to throw away perishable foods right after lunch, and pack extra non-perishable food items for them to enjoy as an afternoon pick-me-up.

Mind Your Fruits And Veggies

In addition to washing vegetables and ready-to-eat fruits like apples and grapes, parents also should rinse peel-and-eat fruits like bananas and oranges to eliminate harmful bacteria that can spread during peeling or cutting.

Lend A Helping Hand

While nearly 60 percent of kids dont wash their hands before eating lunch, more than nine out of 10 kids say they would wash their hands with a moist towelette or hand sanitizer if one was included in their lunch container. Also, help teach kids the importance of lathering up before digging in by reinforcing good habits at home. Encourage them to sing two choruses of “Happy Birthday” (about 20 seconds) while washing their hands before family meals.

This article was provided by the ADA/ConAgra Home Food Safety Program.

*Top image courtesy courtesy of Skip Hop.*