Tips for Keeping School Lunches Safer

Posted By Regan Zambri Long, PLLC || 30-Aug-2017

Posted by Salvatore J, Zambri, founding member and partner.

As children head back to school this fall, parents and their children should heed a few safety guidelines to help minimize the potential for dangerous bacteria growth in school lunches. Although most of us are fairly lax when it comes to tossing items into our own lunch bags, it's important to remember that children's immune systems are not as developed as adults, thus making them more susceptible to foodborne illnesses.

"Bacteria that cause foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In this temperature range, these microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels in just two hours, increasing the risk of foodborne illness. To make sure lunches and snacks are safe for those for whom you pack, you should follow the USDA’s four steps to food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill."

Listed below are some common-sense guidelines for handling food provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  • "CLEAN
    • If you're making lunch the night before, be sure to wash your hands and use clean cutting boards, utensils and countertops. Making lunch on hte same surfaces you used to prepare raw meat or poultry for dinner may result in cross-contamination and lead to salmonella-related illness.
    • Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for meat and poultry.
  • COOK
    • Cook foods to the right remperatue using a food thermometer.
    • If the lunch contains perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs and yougurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources (e.g., freezer packs and frozen water bottles)."

Tips for packing a safe lunch include:

  • "Frozen juice boxes can also be used as freezer packs. By lunchtime, the juice should be thawed and ready to drink.
  • Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag. Use an insulated box or bag instead.
  • Children should wash their hands for 20 seconds with soapy water before eating. Have them sing the ABCs twice while washing if they sometimes finish early.
  • If possible, your child's lunch should be stored in a refrigerator. But leave the lid of the lunchbox or an insulated soft-sided bag open int eh fridge to that cold air can circulate and keep the food cold.
  • If you're 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, then put inthe piping hot food. Tell your child to jeep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot - 140 degrees or above.
  • After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food."

Do you have any questions about this post? Please contact Mr. Zambri at (202) 822-1899 or

About the author:

Mr. Zambri is the author of a widely renowned book on product liability litigation. An experienced speaker, he often shares his knowledge regarding personal injury litigation at seminars.

A board-certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocates, Mr. Zambri is former president of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Out of more than 80,000 lawyers, Mr. Zambri was named among the “Top Ten” lawyers in the Metro area by Super Lawyers®. He has also been ranked among the “Top 100” lawyers in the entire metropolitan area by Washingtonian magazine. Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged as one of "The Best Lawyers in America" by Best Lawyers (2018 edition) and has been repeatedly included in the Super Lawyers® magazine (2017), a national publication that honors the top lawyers in America.

Mr. Zambri has been successful in litigating food-poisoning cases. He is knowledgeable and experienced in handling the unique complexities involved in food-poisoning litigation.

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