Kids will be heading back to school in the coming weeks which means parents are back to packing lunches and snacks. The USDA has some great food safety tips to keep in mind.

Bacteria can cause food borne illness or food poisoning and that can lead to miserable conditions. The USDA has 4 main steps to keep foods safe: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.

So before the kids head back to school with a lunchbox full of bacteria here are some tips to help keep those lunches healthy.

  • Perishable food items like lunch meat, yogurts and cheeses should be packed with 2 cold sources like ice packs, cold gel pack, frozen water bottles or juice boxes.
  • Pack perishable lunch items in an insulated or soft side lunch bag.
  • Hot lunch items like soups, stews, casseroles etc. should also be kept hot at 140 F or above. Warm a thermos with hot water first then pour out water and add in your hot item.
  • When packing lunches the night before, refrigerate the whole bag so it will stay cold longer.
  • Pack disposable wipes or sanitizer for washing and clean up after eating.
  • Don't reuse Ziplock baggies or other food packaging to reduce contamination of other foods.

These are just a few tips offered by the USDA. For more information about food safety visit the or call the USDA Meant & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).