Did you know that food poisoning can be more that just an upset stomach? It is actually a very serious public health threat in America. So serious that the CDC estimates that approximately 1 in every 6 Americans (that’s roughly 48 million people!) could end up suffering from food-borne illnesses this year. With about 128,000 of those ending hospitalizations and sadly, an estimated 3,000 deaths. I don’t know about you but those numbers are terrifying. So what can you do to protect yourself from food-borne illnesses? The Food Safe Families Campaign (a partnership on behalf of the Ad Council, USDA, FDA and CDC) would like to help parents protect their families from food-borne illness during the upcoming holidays.
Here’s a few school lunch tips that may be new to you or you may know some of them.
Tip #1: If the lunch you’re packing contains perishable food items like cold cut meats, eggs and yogurt, make sure to pack it with freezer packs or keep it otherwise chilled. Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the “Danger Zone” — the temperatures between 40 and 140 °F (4.4 °C and 60 °C). So, perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long.
Tip #2: Frozen juice boxes can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze juice boxes overnight and use as freezer packs. By lunchtime, the juice should be thawed and ready to drink!
Tip #3: Pack lunches in an insulated, soft-sided lunch bag. Lunches with perishable food items can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in an old-fashioned brown paper bag.
Tip #4: If there is a refrigerator at school, tell your child to keep their lunch inside. But leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.
Tip #5: After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause food-borne illness.
For more information on food safety and have access to an online help center be sure to check out FoodSafety.gov. They have a plethora of information on preventing food-borne illnesses, in both English and Spanish. Or if it is easier for you, you can call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline.