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Nutrition counts even when dining out

After many years of eating lunch out every workday, I'm "brown-bagging

it", for several reasons:

my favorite buffets have closed or left town; bringing a lunch saves money; and my lunch partner (husband, Bob) is on a diet.

I've bought an insulated lunchbox and a variety of little plastic refrigerator containers so I'm in business now.

Packed lunches should be nutritious, tasty and most of all, safe.

The two best precautions against the growth of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses are cleanliness and proper refrigeration.

Cleanliness begins with clean hands, clean preparation surfaces, and clean utensils.

Everything that touches the food should be clean.

The reusuable containers that travel back and forth to school or work should be thoroughly washed each night with hot, soapy water and rinsed well with hot water.

I wash

mine in the dishwasher where the water gets really hot.

Raw fruits and vegetables are a healthy lunch addition and should be thoroughly rinsed under running water (NO SOAP) or washed with one of the new fruit and vegetable wash products.

Proper refrigeration is essential.

An insulated lunchbox or sack and a freezer gel pack are wise investments.

If you do use a brown bag, make sure that it is packed with a freezer gel pack or a similar cold source if it can't be refrigerated.

Gel packs will keep food cold until lunchtime, but are not recommended for all-day storage, even in an insulated lunchbox.

Food not eaten at lunch should be discarded if it has not been in a refrigerator.

Double bagging the lunch will help stop leaks and improve insulation too; but when you can buy an insulated lunchbox for $6.00 and use it all year, that seems like a better way to go.

To add more "cold", you can freeze a juice box overnight to pack with the lunch.

If you make sandwiches the night before, they should, of course, be refrigerated or frozen overnight.

Teach children to keep their lunch safe.

Remind them to use the refrigerator at school, if one is available to them.

If not, they should keep their lunch out of direct sunlight and away from heaters, even if they use an insulated container.

Explain the importance of washing hands before eating lunch.

If they aren't given the opportunity to wash, you may want to pack one of the hand sanitizer products with their lunch every day.

September is FOOD SAFETY MONTH but it should be uppermost in our minds all year long.

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