Brown bag lunch might not be safe food etiquette

Summer is almost over and school will be starting soon. Along with school comes an increase in lunches being packed for a meal time hours later. Food safety is a real issue with packed lunches. You need to think about keeping the foods at the proper temperatures along with reducing the risks for contamination.

The old brown paper bag or plastic grocery bag may not be the safest container for your lunch.

First, unless it is a clean bag you may pick up bacteria from whatever was previously stored in the bag. Who would want to pack their lunch in a bag that once held raw meat? Next, even if you have a special insulated lunch bag to hold your food at the proper temperature, you need to clean and sanitize the container every time you use it to reduce the risk of contamination from old food or from contact surfaces.

Once you have a clear and sanitized insulated lunch bag, pack something frozen in the bag like a drink box, bottle water or ice pack. Next make sure that your sandwich and all food items going in your lunch are cold. You may want to test your insulated lunch bag and see how long it will keep your food cold. Cold food should be held at 40 degrees or less. Food that is held above this temperature for more than two hours should not be eaten.

If you are packing a hot lunch, make sure you use an insulated bottle designed for food. Foods held for hot serving should be at 140 degrees. Foods held below this temperature for more than two hours should not be eaten.

Whatever you pack for lunch, make sure you reduce the risks of food borne illness by keeping your food at the proper temperatures and reducing contamination.

For more information on food safety concerns, contact Texas AgriLife Extension ServiceMilam County Office for additional information at 100 E. 1st Street in Cameron or by calling 254-697-7045.


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2010-08-05 digital edition

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