Packing a food safe lunch

Bringing your lunch to work or preparing lunches to take to school means food can go unrefrigerated for extended periods of time. This can increase the risks of bacterial growth. Learn tips to help pack a safe lunch.

September is National Food Safety Month – a great time to check a few details in our daily routines to help keep ourselves and our food safe from pathogens and bacteria!

Bringing your lunch to work, or preparing lunches to take to school, means food can go unrefrigerated for extended periods of time. This can increase the risks of bacterial growth and increase chances for foodborne illness. Michigan State University Extension recommends following these necessary steps to ensure food stays safe to eat:

  • Use insulated lunch bags to keep food cold. If you must use paper bags, always double the bags for added insulation.
  • Always use some kind of ice pack in the bag to keep the food inside cold. Small, frozen gel packs are perfect for this task, as are small frozen water bottles or juice boxes.
  • Choose food wisely. If perishable foods like meats, eggs, cheese and chicken are to be included in your lunch, remember these are potential targets for a bacterium that causes foodborne illness and must be kept cold. Consider other choices that don’t need to be kept cold, such as peanut Butter and jelly, whole fruit or crackers. Remember, all cut fruits and vegetables need to be kept cold.
  • Make sandwiches ahead of time and freeze them to help keep them cold and safe from bacteria.

If there are leftovers from lunches, observe the two-hour rule and “when in doubt, throw it out.” If foods continue to not be consumed at lunchtime, it might be a good time to consider portion control. Lastly, remember to wash and clean lunch bags with soap and water after each use to prevent build- up of bacteria.

Keeping you and your family safe is important; please keep food safety in mind when preparing meals and snacks!

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