Government of Canada
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Lunch to Go! Food Safety Tips
Preventing foodborne illness

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Let's Do Lunch!

Mornings are busy and packing lunches takes time. But, why not take an extra few minutes to follow these tips from Canada's food safety experts? After all, they pack lunches, too!

Three quick and easy steps to making safe a lunch

1. Get off to a CLEAN start!

  • Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of foodborne illness. Do you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling food?
  • Are your countertops and utensils clean and sanitized? Sanitizing kills bacteria and can prevent foodborne illness. Don't forget to clean your lunchbox!


  • Combine 5 mL (1 tsp) of bleach with 750 mL (3 cups) of water in a labelled spray bottle.
  • After cleaning, spray sanitizer on the surface/utensil and let stand briefly.
  • Rinse with lots of clean water, and air dry (or use clean towels).


Foodsafe tip: Because raw fruits and vegetables can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses and parasites, wash them thoroughly with clean, safe water before you prepare and eat them. Use a brush to scrub produce with firm or rough surfaces, such as oranges, cantaloupes and carrots.

2. Keep cold food cold

  • Perishable food like meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, mayonnaise, dairy products and all leftovers must stay cold to stay safe. Use frozen freezer packs to keep your food at or below 4 °C (40 °F).
  • Use an insulated lunch box. Keep it out of direct sunlight and away from radiators and other heat sources.
Foodsafe tip: Half an egg sandwich left over after lunch? Put it in the fridge right away-or throw it out. Freezer packs work in your insulated lunchbox for a few hours but they can't keep food cold for the whole day.

3. Keep hot food hot

  • To be safe, hot food like soup, chili and stew must stay hot-at or above 60 °C (140 °F). Use insulated containers and keep the containers closed until lunchtime. Or, if you have a microwave available, take your food cold and reheat it at lunchtime.
Foodsafe tip: Preheat your insulated container by filling it with boiling water and letting it stand for a couple of minutes. Pour out the water and fill the container with your hot food right away.

Safeguarding Canada's Food Supply

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is the Government of Canada's science-based regulator for animal health, plant protection and, in partnership with Health Canada, food safety.

For more information on food safety, visit the CFIA website at or call 1-800-442-2342/TTY 1-800-465-7735 (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday to Friday). You can also find food safety information on the Health Canada and Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education websites respectively at and

Cat. no.: A104-8/2005E
ISBN: 0-662-41094-7