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USDA Recommends Adding Food Safety What to Your Back-to-School List

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2022 On your own next back-to-school shopping trip, ensure that you include food safety items on your own shopping list to help keep school lunches safe.

Each day, parents concentrate on medical and safety of these children, which focus includes how they prepare and pack lunches, said Sandra Eskin, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Because children are particularly at an increased risk for serious foodborne illness, food safety should be near the top of the list while preparing lunches for school and field trips.

Think about the following for the grocery list:

  • Clean and sanitize surfaces and utensils: Clean your prep area before you begin that school lunch. A recently available USDA study (PDF, 102 KB) showed that cross-contamination was prevalent in your kitchen during food prep. Therefore, make sure to wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with soap and after preparing each meal and before proceeding to another item. A homemade bleach-based solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water may be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils in your kitchen.
  • Different colored cutting boards: Separate meat and poultry from ready-to-eat foods (such as for example fruits, vegetables, cheeses, etc.) in order to avoid cross-contamination throughout your preparing food.
  • Food thermometers for food prep: In case you are cooking a frozen item for the childs lunch, work with a food thermometer to check on whether meals has already reached a safe temperature to kill any parasites. Beware: some frozen foods aren’t fully cooked or not ready-to-eat, but have browned breading, grill marks or other signs that claim that they’re cooked. Get them to cooked to a safe internal temperature: meat (whole beef, pork and lamb) 145 F with a 3-minute rest; ground meats 160 F; poultry (ground and whole) 165 F; eggs 160 F; seafood 145 F; and leftovers and casseroles 165 F.
  • Insulated lunch boxes and gel packs: Perishable food could be unsafe to consume by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag. Keep your meal cool by storing it within an insulated bag. Place a frozen gel pack, coupled with a frozen juice box or bottle of water to help keep food cold also to steer clear of the Danger Zone (temperatures between 40 F and 140 F where bacteria can multiply quickly and cause illness).
  • Insulated containers: If hot liquids such as for example soup, chili or stew are on the menu, use an insulated container to help keep items hot at 140 F and above. Fill the container with boiling water, allow it stand for a couple of minutes, empty, and pour in the hot food. Keep carefully the insulated container closed until lunchtime.
  • Handwashing aides: Hand wipes and 60 percent alcohol-based hand sanitizers are perfect for children to completely clean their hands before they eat when water and soap aren’t available.

Read more about USDAs four steps to food safety and obtain your meal safe lunch questions answered by calling the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), email or chat live at from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

Access FSIS news releases along with other information at Follow FSIS on Twitter at or in Spanish at:

USDA touches the lives of most Americans every day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming Americas food system with a larger concentrate on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for several producers, ensuring usage of safe, healthy, and nutritious food in every communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and investing in equity over the Department by detatching systemic barriers and creating a workforce more representative of America. To find out more, visit


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