You pack a lunch early in the morning, but you-or your child-may not eat it until hours later. Food-borne illness can be serious, especially for young children, but “It’s not hard to keep packed lunches safe,” said Connie Crawley, a Cooperative Extension nutrition and health specialist in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
Many of your or your child’s favorites are perfectly safe at room temperature. Peanut-butter-and-jelly, for instance, doesn’t need to stay cold.
Cut-up veggies and fresh fruit aren’t perishable in the short term, either.
A good rule to remember is to pack foods the way you bought them.
“If it was refrigerated, keep it cold,” Crawley said. “Shelf-stable items may taste better cold but won’t spoil at room temperature.”
Use a well-insulated bag or box to keep cold foods at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and hot foods at or above 140. If a perishable food stays at room temperature for two hours, it’s risky to eat it.