Feds tell parents how to pack school lunch, rate lunchboxes

Aug 23, 2016 by

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The federal government wants to make sure parents know how to properly pack a school lunch for their child, so “experts” with the U.S. Department of Agriculture are publishing tips.

Officials with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a series of tips for parents that guide them along the very simple task of preparing school lunches, from choosing the right lunch box to how to microwave leftovers. The advice is undoubtedly aimed at the more than 1.2 million students who dropped out of the National School Lunch Program after the agency imposed restrictions on calories, fat, sugar, sodium, whole grain, and other nutritional elements of school lunches at the urging of first lady Michelle Obama in 2012.

Michelle Obama’s campaign to fight childhood obesity through bureaucracy has also resulted in an increase of more than $1 billion in food waste annually.

One flyer posted to the USDA website, titled “Back-to-School Food Safety Tips,” explains four ways to keep food safe, as well as scary statistics about what happens if parents do not.

The document suggests parents clean their hands, cutting boards and other utensils used to make their children lunch. It also suggests parents separate raw meat and poultry from other items, like fresh produce, during preparation to prevent cross contamination.

Parents would also be wise to cook the food – preferably with a food thermometer – before their kids consume it. Lastly, it’s important to keep perishable items like meats, eggs and yogurt cool with an ice pack of some sort, the document advises.

“Make sure that you’re sending it to school with two cold sources. That can be a jell pack and a frozen juice box,” Amelia Kermis, a spokeswoman for the USDA, told NBC 26.

Failure to follow the common sense steps puts kids at risk of becoming one in six Americans who are stricken with food poisoning each year, which results in about 128,000 hospitalizations annually, according to the USDA.

The government believes there’s an estimated 1.2 million cases of salmonella poisoning each year, about half of which inflict infants or school-age children.

Other topics for parents available on the USDA website include “Why keep food cold?” and “Begin with safe food.”

And each topic provides parents with specific advice.

“Pack just the amount of perishable food that can be eaten at lunchtime. That way, there won’t be a problem about the storage or safety of leftovers. After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness,” according to the suggestions on “packing lunches.”

As for using a microwave to cook food, the USDA suggests parents “cover food to hold in moisture and promote safe, even heating.

“Reheat leftovers to at least 165 degrees F, making sure to use a food thermometer to be sure a safe temperature has been reached before consuming the food. Cook frozen convenience meals according to package instructions,” the government advises.

The USDA also tells parents what kinds of lunch boxes are best.

“Look for an insulated lunch box or bag with enough room for two cold sources to keep the food safe inside,” according to the USDA website. “Make sure it is easy to clean both inside and out. You’ll want to was all reusable food storage containers that go in the lunch box or bag with hot, soapy water after each use.

“If it comes with a thermos, test it when you get home to make sure it will keep foods piping hot (above 140 degrees) until lunch time.”

Parents who still can’t figure out how to feed their own children can call a government hotline – 1-888-674-6854 – or chat live with a USDA “food safety specialist” at AskKaren.gov between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish, according to the USDA website.

The lunch lessons follow a similar no-brainer tutorial published on the USDA website in 2014 to teach folks how to roast a marshmallow.

Source: Feds tell parents how to pack school lunch, rate lunchboxes | EAGnews.org

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