Mahaska Health Partnership Offers Lunch Packing Safety Tips

Mahaska Health Partnership

Mahaska Health Partnership

MAHASKA COUNTY – When it comes to packing a lunch, it’s important to make sure you keep food clean, separated and at the proper temperature to avoid health hazards.

When it comes to food, it’s important to avoid cross-contamination or improper storage. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are approximately 42,000 reports of salmonella infections, the most common cause of foodborne illness, with nearly half of those occurring in children.

“It’s unfortunately very easy to contaminate food and breed bacteria that can cause illness,” explained MHP Registered Dietitian Lea Rice. “However, it is just as easy to prevent infection by ensuring you are taking the proper precautions to avoid contamination and keep food at the proper temperatures.

“One way to do this is to clean all of your tools including your hands before preparing a lunch. If you work with raw meat or poultry for dinner, it can contaminate the surface you’re going to use to prepare lunch for the following day, so ensuring everything is cleaned prior to use will minimize that risk. Also, use separate tools and cutting boards for meats and produce so there’s no chance for bacteria to absorb into the next item.”

When working with perishables, Rice suggests using an insulated bag. “Foods like lunch meat, eggs and yogurt can go bad quickly if they are not stored properly, so make sure to avoid the use of a paper bag or other no-insulated package. Even with an insulated bag, make sure to use at least two cold sources, such as an ice pack and frozen water bottle or juice box. The drinks will thaw by lunch and will keep your food cold at the same time.”

If you prepare a lunch the night before, keep it stored in the fridge as long as possible. “Keep the lunchbox in the fridge but open the lid so the cold air can reach your food,” Rice said. “If you’re packing hot food, use an insulated container and keep food at least 140 degrees until ready to eat.”

When it’s time to eat, avoid spreading germs by washing your hands before handling food. “Children especially need to be reminded to wash before eating,” Rice urged. “Teach them to sing the ABC’s all the way through two times while scrubbing their hands in the sink with warm, soapy water to ensure they have washed long enough.”

After lunch, clean-up is equally as important as preparation in avoiding contamination. “Make sure all leftover food, packaging and bags are discarded after eating,” Rice explained. “If there are reusable containers used, rinse out if possible and make sure lids are tightly fastened. Avoid fluids from leaking into an empty lunchbox and spreading bacteria for the next day.

“The key to keeping your food safe is to work with clean surfaces and avoid cross-contamination,” Rice continued. “Practicing good hand hygiene, keeping cold food cold and hot food hot will help minimize your odds of getting sick. Whether you’re going on a short picnic or taking a long trip, packing appropriately can help save everyone a lot of head and stomach aches down the road.”

Registered Dietitian Lea Rice provides inpatient and outpatient nutrition education, helping patients understand how their diet affects their overall health and well-being; including counseling patients with chronic health conditions. She is very involved in the community and enjoys sharing evidence-based nutrition information. To schedule an appointment with Rice, call 641.672.3303.



Posted by on Oct 1 2017. Filed under Lifestyle. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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