By Dan RahnUniversity of GeorgiaAs your child leaves for school in the morning, the greatest riskto her safety could be in the lunch you packed for her. Foodborneillnesses can be serious, even deadly, for young childrenespecially. But lunch doesn’t have to be risky.”It’s not hard to keep packed lunches safe,” said Connie Crawley,an Extension Service nutrition and health specialist with theUniversity of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.”But it takes some thought and preparation.” Select foods that won’t spoil easilyIn a packed lunch, food safety depends on what you pack and howyou pack it, Crawley said.Choosing the food is a big step. Many of your child’s favoritesare perfectly safe at room temperature.Peanut-butter-and-jelly, for instance, is a standard that doesn’tneed to stay cold. Cut-up veggies and fresh fruit aren’tperishable short-term, either. They provide nutrition kids needin a way they like.But choose new lunch foods carefully. “Practice lunch at home,especially if you start packing cans of shelf-stable pudding orcut-up fruit,” Crawley said. “Then you’ll know if your child cansafely and easily open the container.” Keep cold and hot foods apartIf you’re packing a cold food as well, keep the hot-foodcontainer away from the gel ice or frozen juice so it can stayhot.As you’re preparing lunch, be especially careful. “Bacteriacan be introduced while you pack,” Crawley said. “Don’t leave food out at room temperature too long before youpack it,” she said. “Keep the cold foods refrigerated and packthem only when the child is ready to leave for school.” Pack ’em like you bought ’emA good rule to remember is to pack foods the way you bought them.”If it was refrigerated, keep it cold,” Crawley said.”Shelf-stable items may taste better cold but won’t spoil at roomtemperature.”You can safely pack perishable foods, too. But you can’t let themstay at room temperature, Crawley said.A critical first step to packing safe lunches is to get awell-insulated bag or box. The most important thing in foodsafety, she said, is keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot.Keep cold foods at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and hot foodsat or above 140, she said. The danger zone is between those twotemperatures. If a perishable food stays at room temperature for2 hours, it’s risky to eat it.The same temperatures that make your child comfortable at school,Crawley said, are perfect for Staphylococci, Salmonella,Campylobacter and other pathogens that can cause foodborneillnesses.Many children prefer their foods cold. For them, Crawley said,gel ice packs or frozen juice bags or boxes provide a cold sourcethat can keep perishable foods safe until lunchtime. Frozen juicedrinks will usually thaw in time to go with lunch, so they won’ttake up extra space in the bag.Hot foods raise concerns for your child’s ability to open thecontainer and serve herself safely. Pack these foods in qualityvacuum-insulated bottles and containers. But have your childpractice opening the container at home. Be sure she can do itwell without spilling.To pack hot foods, Crawley said, first warm the container byfilling it with hot water. Then, right before the child leavesfor school, pour out the water and add the hot food. Don’t fillit too full. Remember that the food should be well above 140degrees when you pack it.