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August 15, 2013

Safety important when packing school lunches

NORMAN — Just a few short weeks ago, Oklahoma children were celebrating the end of another school year. Fast forward to now, and those same children already are seeing back-to-school items in their local retail stores.

It is time to get serious about learning. In addition, the school lunch also is an important aspect of every child’s school day.

The food your children eat at lunch is what provides them with the fuel they need to complete the school day. It is important to make sure what you pack for them stays safe until lunchtime. Be sure to follow food safety rules to help ensure your children aren’t at risk for foodborne illnesses.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 48 million people in the United States become ill from foodborne illnesses every year. All safety aspects must come into play when preparing foods.

The first step is to start with food that has been handled properly. Perishable food must be kept cold or frozen at the grocery store as well as at home. Foods should never be left at room temperature for more than two hours, or not more than an hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees.

Keep everything clean while preparing foods. Use a different cutting board for foods eaten raw and foods that will be cooked.

As you pack your child’s lunch, pack only enough foods that can be eaten at lunch time. In addition, teach your child to throw away any uneaten perishable foods. Nonperishable foods such as crackers or fresh fruits can be used as an after school snack.

Insulated, soft-sided lunch boxes are the best options for keeping food cold. For extra assurance, include a frozen ice pack or a frozen juice box.

Hot foods should be packed in an insulated container. To help maintain heat, fill the container with boiling water and let it stand for five minutes. Empty the container and then put in the thoroughly heated food. Tell your child to keep the lid tightly closed until lunchtime.

Following just a few easy steps will increase the safety of the nutritious lunch your child will enjoy at school.

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