Packing lunches the right way

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peanut butter bread

WASHINGTON — Summer is coming to an end and families across the country are trading in beach balls and rollerblades for backpacks and notebooks.

But back-to-school time is also followed by cold and flu season.

Having the whole family follow simple healthy behaviors can help them avoid all kinds of illnesses this time of year, including foodborne illness.

Lunch packing tips

If the lunch contains perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs, cheese or yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources, such as freezer packs.

Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly so perishable food transported without a cold source won’t stay safe long.

Frozen juice boxes or water 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.

If packing a hot lunch, like 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 put in the piping hot food.

Tell children to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food at 140 F or above.

If packing a child’s lunch the night before, parents should 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.

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