Bacteria, which can lead to food poisoning, can grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140°F, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. In just two hours, these microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels. To make sure your child’s lunches are safe, follow these tips:
- If the lunch/snack contains perishable food items such as luncheon meats, eggs, cheese or yogurt, pack items with at least two cold sources. Perishable food transported without an ice source won't stay safe for long.
Frozen juice boxes or water bottles can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze these items overnight and use with at least one other freezer pack. By lunchtime, the liquids should be thawed and ready to drink.
Pack lunches containing perishable food in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided lunch bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag.
If packing a hot lunch, such as soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty and then add the piping-hot food. Tell your child to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot — at 140°F or above.
If packing a child’s lunch the night before, leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The meal will stay cold longer because everything will be refrigerator temperature when it is placed in the lunchbox in the morning.