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Whether you’re packing a lunch to take on a picnic, have on a long road trip, to take to work, or to send to school with your child, learning how to properly handle food and safely pack a lunch can go a long ways towards helping prevent cases of food poisoning. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 48 million people (which equates to about 1 in 6 people) will get sick as a result of foodborne illnesses. As a new school year starts the experts want to remind the public that poorly bagged or boxed lunches are known to be a major cause of foodborne illnesses. The USDA, along with Dr. Cindy Haines from HealthDay TV, recommend following the “six top tips for keeping your food safe,” which include:
1 – Use at least 2 cold packs anytime you pack meats, eggs, yogurt, cheeses, or any other perishable foods. You want to keep foods below 40° F to prevent harmful bacteria from growing.
2 – Juice boxes and Capri suns can be frozen and used as additional ice packs, which can be drank once they do thaw.
3 – When possible put your lunch in a refrigerator (like while at work) and open the bag or crack the lid on your lunch box/bag so the cold air can circulate around the foods.
4 – Replace brown paper bags with a soft-sided insulated lunch bag, which are much more efficient when it comes to preventing foods from spoiling (plus they are reusable and more environmentally friendly).
5 – Use insulated containers to keep hot foods warm (and make sure the lid stays closed until lunchtime).
6 – Discard any leftovers, used packaging, and paper bags from lunch.
According to experts from the Mayo Clinic, in most cases food poisoning illnesses will resolve on their own within a few days; although food poisoning can be life threatening to children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune symptoms. When in doubt, get it checked out! It’s always a good idea to get your healthcare providers opinions. In the meantime, here are some general tips for treating and relieving food poisoning:
-- Drink plenty of fluids and try eating bland foods (like crackers, toast, gelatin, bananas, and rice), which are easier on the digestive system
-- Gradually ease back into eating and try to avoid things that can cause further stomach upset, like fatty or highly seasoned foods, dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine.
Those who experience severe symptoms (like bloody stools, fevers, persistent diarrhea and dehydration) or have symptoms that do not improve within 48 hours should consult with their healthcare providers.