Each year, about one in six Americans suffers from foodborne illness, resulting in about 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To protect you and your family from food poisoning, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service offers the following advice:
Use two freezer packs. If your lunch includes perishable items such as luncheon meats, eggs and yogurt, use at least two freezer packs to keep these foods at cool temperatures where harmful bacteria can't multiply rapidly.
Frozen juice boxes can be used as freezer packs. Freeze a juice box overnight and use it with at least one freezer pack. By lunchtime, the juice should be thawed and ready to drink.
Pack perishable lunch items and freezer packs in an insulated, soft-sided lunch bag. If you use a paper bag, perishable foods may be unsafe to eat by lunchtime, according to the food inspection service.
If your children's school has a refrigerator, they should put their lunch in there as soon as they arrive. Have them leave the lid of their lunchbox or bag open in the fridge to improve the circulation of cold air around the food.
When packing hot lunches such as soup, stew or chili, use an insulated container to keep those foods hot. Before putting the food in the container, fill it with boiling water and let it stand for a few minutes before emptying the water. Then put in the hot food and keep the container closed until lunchtime.
After lunch, throw away all leftover food, used food packaging and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause illness, the safety experts said in an agency news release.