Every year, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from eating contaminated food.
In Arlington, the Environmental Health Program inspects school food programs to ensure that they prepare and serve food properly. If you choose to make lunch for your kids at home instead, here are some tips to ensure you get an A+ for safety!
- When preparing lunches, wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds
- Use clean utensils and cutting boards. Use one set for bread or raw fruits and vegetables and another for meats (or wash them with hot, soapy water in between).
- Cook foods to the right temperature using a thermometer.
- It’s fine to prepare the food the night before, but pack lunch bags right before leaving home. That way the cold air from your fridge can keep the food cold.
- If the lunch has perishable food items like lunch meat and yogurt, pack it with at least two cold sources (e.g., freezer packs, frozen juice or water bottles) to keep it cold—40° F or below.
- Use an insulated lunchbox or bag. These keep foods colder than a paper bag.
- If the lunch has hot items, like soup, use an insulated container to keep it hot—140° F or above.
- After lunch, throw away leftover food and packaging. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food.
For more tips, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.