Health and Well-Being-Keep bacteria out of lunchboxes!
Parents who do their food safety homework can protect their children's brown-bag lunches from hungry bacteria.
"Bacteria love school-room temperatures, which allow them to multiply quickly when there's also a source of food and moisture," says Debbie Demory-Luce, PhD, a registered dietitian with the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
To keep harmful bacteria at bay, she offers the following suggestions:
Before school begins:
• Add well-insulated lunchboxes or bags, insulated bottles for hot and cold foods, and several days' supply of freezer gel pack to your school shopping list.
• Stock up on shelf-stable foods, such as canned fruit or puddings with pop-top lids, peanut butter, crackers, fresh fruit, bottled water, single-serve packets of mayonnaise, and boxes of 100% fruit juice. Disposable silverware and individual hand wipes are also a good idea.
• Wash hands, food preparation surfaces, and utensils with hot soapy water before making lunchbox fare. Wash raw fruit and vegetables thoroughly.
• Avoid using mayonnaise or mayonnaise-type dressings as a spread or salad base if the lunch can't be refrigerated. Handle all perishable foods with care.
• Prepare the meals the evening before and store them in the refrigerator or freezer.
• Tightly wrap cold foods in waterproof plastic and pack around a frozen ice pack or juice box.
• Preheat or prechill insulated bottles to maximize the protection they provide.
• Store lunchboxes and bags out of direct sunlight and away from radiators.
• Discard leftovers. Gel packs and insulated containers won't keep foods safe all day.
• Wash lunchboxes, gel packs, and insulated bags with hot, soapy water and air-dry. Using a little baking soda helps control food odors. Return gel packs to the freezer.