As if parents need one more thing to worry about right now, just one more item on an already full plate. Pandemic life has magnified so many issues that may not have been squarely in our line of vision before.

Food safety is more than likely one of those things you are either very conscious of or often take for granted. Flu season will soon be upon us right in the middle of another global health crisis. There are enough worries about sending your kids back-to-school that you don't need food poisoning to darken your doorstep.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is encouraging families to take time to plan and then prepare your kids' lunches and snacks using their four steps to food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.

There are a few essential items the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) suggests families pick up while back-to-school shopping, including:

  • Hand wipes, hand sanitizer, soap, and towels - Wash hands with soap and water prior to food preparation and when moving from one food to another. Use hand wipes and hand sanitizer when soap and water aren't available.
  • Different color cutting boards - Cross-contamination is one major source of food-borne illness and having color-coded cutting boards are good reminders to do separate food prep for raw food products and ready-to-eat items.
  • Food thermometers - This is the only reliable way to know that food is cooked thoroughly.
  • Insulated soft-sided lunchboxes, gel packs, and a refrigerator thermometer - The appliance thermometer makes sure you're keeping perishable food items at safe temperatures. The insulated lunchbox along with frozen gel packs and juice boxes will keep your child's lunch safely chilled until lunchtime.
  • Insulated containers for hot foods - These are important to keep hot foods like soup or chili at a safe temperature.

You can find a lot more information on the USDA Food Safety website, including a fun comic book for kids, explaining how food poisoning can occur.

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