Food safety practices for packing lunch and snacks for your child

Good food safety practices are critical when sending food with your children to childcare.

It is a daily routine in many homes: Parents getting ready for work, getting children up and dressed and fed, packing school lunch and snack bags and then everyone heads out the door to a day full of work, school or fun at childcare. Packing snacks and lunches to send with your child to daycare does take some time and planning to keep nutritious food safe from bacterial growth from the time the food leaves your home early morning until your child’s snack and lunch time.

Michigan State University Extension recommends following these tips below to help keep packed lunches safe:
  • Always start your lunch packing and food prep with clean hands and clean surfaces to reduce the risk of contamination. Get your child involved in packing their lunch as well and have them wash hands before helping.
  • Begin with safe perishable foods that have been properly stored in the refrigerator. Any foods left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours have been exposed to the temperature danger zone and may have harmful bacteria present.
  • Foods that can easily spoil (such as leftovers, casseroles, soups, meats, meat sandwiches, eggs, dairy products and vegetables) must be kept cold. Find out if your child’s snacks and lunch can be kept in a refrigerator at the childcare site or if you need to provide a method for keeping it cold.
  • Add an icepack or frozen gel pack to your child’s lunch. If you do not have an icepack, you can also keep foods cold by freezing part of the lunch such as water bottle, yogurt, pudding, applesauce or a 100 percent juice box and packing it next to the perishable food right before you leave home in the morning
  • Use an insulated lunch box or soft-sided lunch bag, which will also assist in keeping cold foods cold.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables and dry them before adding to the lunch box.
  • Pack snacks and lunches the night before and store them in the refrigerator to keep them safe and make things easier during the morning rush.
  • Make sure to label your child’s snack/lunch bag to avoid confusion at daycare.

A few easy food safety tips can go a long way in preventing foodborne illness for your children.

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