Jobsites are up and running and the heat of summer is quick approaching! As millions of Americans carry “sack lunches” onto the jobsite, it is important to assure proper cooking and handling has been done. So, make extra of your favorite dish or grab something on the way, because we want you to get the most out of the brown bag, and enjoy your SAFE lunch!
To do so, read the guidelines below to keep your lunch safe & bacteria free.
Although it may be tempting to carry your lunch in an affordable brown bag, or to keep it in the bag from the store this can be very dangerous. The ideal start for carrying your food is the use of an insulated container with AT LEAST 2 freezer packs – one above and one below the perishable foods.
The insulated container and freezer packs keep cold food cold and reduce the spread of harmful bacteria. The bacteria multiply rapidly in foods within the “danger zone,” 40°F to 140°F, for more than 2 hours (1 hour when temperatures surpass 90°F). The ability to keep your lunch at a safe temperature allows for a much more imaginative mealtime. Keep reading to see our mealtime tips!
Safe lunches begin with safe food preparation. It is important to follow these simple steps.
- Cooking food to safe temperatures is vital in food preparation; use clean utensils and wash all working surfaces each time. When storing leftover meals, immediately place in packaging or airtight containers. Be sure to portion large quantities into smaller dishes to get food in the “safe zone” (at or below 40°F) quickly to reduce the risk of bacteria.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. In addition, wash all storage dishes, work surfaces and even your insulated lunch container. If you are in a situation where you must use a classic brown paper bag, be sure they are purchased from the food preparation aisle at your local supermarket.
- Do not over prepare your packed lunch. Packing too much perishable food can cause cooling issues with your cool packs and causes issues of food disposal on the jobsite. If you do pack too much, share with a friend to limit food waste.
- When handling liquids or fluid foods, use a thermos to keep foods cold or hot. Hot foods should be packaged in a preheated thermal container. Preheating can be done by placing boiling water into the container and letting it set for a few minutes before filling with your preheated food.
All perishable foods that are intended to be served cold, must be kept cold. Foods prepared with meat (including fish and poultry), eggs, dairy, cut & peeled fruits and vegetables, pasta and rice dishes meat these guidelines.
- Prepared foods made in advance and packaged the evening before should stay refrigerated until they are ready to be added to your lunch container. When morning arrives, you should then add foods that do not require refrigeration such as chips or cookies.
- When arriving at work, place your lunch in a cool dark place. If it is possible to refrigerate, do so, but in many workplaces this option is unavailable. In addition to cooling packs, a frozen water or sports drink can significantly help keep your food cool.
Foods that require reheating should be microwaved until they are steaming and heated throughout. Let foods reach edible temperatures to avoid burning.
Although many foods require thorough preparation and care to avoid food-borne bacteria, there are some that can remain at room temperature (68-72°F). In hot temperatures, room temperature can be met in an insulated container, and on cool days can be safe without additional preparation.
Safe foods include:
- Nut butter sandwiches (peanut butter, hazelnut spread, almond butter)
- Breads & crackers
- Prepared popcorn
- Whole intact fruit (fruit with the peel)
- Fruit cups/ pudding cups
- Dried fruit, nuts & seeds
- Cookies, bars, prepared snack mixes
- Prepared meats, seafood & beans (canned that can be opened and eaten immediately)
Source: Keeping “Bag” Lunches Safe, USDA