A-Z List | Accessible Info | Careers | Contact Us

revised April 01, 2020

Health Protection


Food Safety at Home

Packed lunches

If you pack your lunch for school or for the office, pack food that you know you can safely prepare, transport and store until lunchtime.

You should take extra care when packing these foods:

  • Meat, seafood and eggs
  • Salads containing meat, seafood or eggs
  • Processed meat (e.g., meat from the deli)
  • Milk and milk products (e.g., yogurt and cheese)
  • Raw sprouts (e.g., beans and alfalfa)
  • Cooked rice or beans
  • Soups and stews

These foods are generally safe to pack in your lunch:

  • Fresh vegetables and fruit
  • Dried fruit
  • Breads, crackers, muffins and bagels
  • Apple sauce
  • Condiments (e.g., pickles, relish, mustard, ketchup, jam, honey)
  • Unopened pudding cups and fruit cups

Here are the most important steps to keeping your packed lunch safe:


Before you prepare your lunch, wash your hands, utensils and surfaces with hot water and soap. Clean vegetables and fruit under running water.

Pack your lunch in clean bags and containers. Don't reuse foil or plastic to wrap foods. If you use a reusable lunch bag or box, clean it regularly.


If you are packing hot food, such as soup or leftover cooked food, you need to keep it hot (hotter than 60C) until lunchtime. A thermos is an insulated container that can keep food hot. When you pack your lunch, preheat the thermos by filling it with boiling water and allowing it to stand for a few minutes. Then, pour the water out and fill the thermos with your lunch right away.

You can also take your lunch cold and reheat it at lunchtime. If you choose to do that, be sure to follow the Chill instructions.


Foods such as meat, seafood, eggs, mayonnaise, milk and milk products need to be kept cold (colder than 4C) while travelling and until lunchtime.

When you pack your lunch, place a frozen ice pack next to the food that needs to be kept cold. You can buy ice packs at grocery stores or department stores. If you don't have one, you can use a frozen juice box instead. The frozen pack will keep food cold only until lunchtime, so throw out any leftovers.

Store your lunch in an insulated lunch box or bag so that it stays cold. Keep it in a cool place, out of direct sunlight and away from radiators and heaters. If you have a refrigerator available at school or work, store your lunch in the refrigerator immediately when you arrive. You still need to keep your lunch cold with a frozen pack while you travel to school or work.

Health Topics A-Z | Information for Professionals | Information for Workplaces
| School Corner | Employment/Volunteer Opportunities | Clinics, Classes and Events | Resources & Factsheets | Translated Information | About Public Health | Contact Us | Public Health Home Page

Revised: April 01, 2020

Home | Contact Us | Search | A-Z Topic List
Privacy | Service Commitment

Smaller Text Larger Text