Packing your own lunch doesn't always mean healthier: Pack a safer lunch to work
July 25, 2014
- Perishable foods should never sit out for more than two hours
- Millions of illnesses in this country can be traced to foodborne pathogens
- Reusing soiled packages can contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness
LITTLE ROCK -- Packing your own lunch to work often means a “healthier and less expensive option,” said Serena Fuller, associate professor of nutrition for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. However, it can also mean a risk of foodborne illness if these foods aren't stored properly.
“These days more Americans are bringing their lunch to work,” she said, and we've all been guilty of putting a cold meal in our workbag in the morning and forgetting about it until lunchtime.”
When foods aren't refrigerated for extended periods of time, bacteria has a chance to grow and multiply, increasing the risk of foodborne illnesses. Foods should never sit out for more than two hours.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the United States can be traced to foodborne pathogens.
Fuller offered few simple steps that can prevent foodborne illness and save a lot of money to see the doctors.
Chill it, Clean it, Toss it
Immediately after arriving at work, refrigerate perishable foods, she said. These include cooked meats and any salads made with mayonnaise or other foods that are vulnerable to fast bacterial growth.
If refrigerator isn't available, foods need to be stored in an insulated bag with frozen gel packs or frozen juice box.
Non-perishable, shelf-stable items such as whole fruits, chips, crackers, canned meat and fish don’t need to stay cold.
If you prepare your food at work be sure to wash hands thoroughly before starting. Clean any food preparation surfaces with warm soapy water before and after preparing the food.
Toss any used packaging and paper bags. “Reusing packages can contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness,” she said.
To learn more about food handling, visit www.uaex.edu/health-living/food-safety/handling/ or contact your county extension office.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
By Kezia Nanda
For the Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service