PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As summer break winds down and kids start returning to school, food safety experts are sharing tips for parents to keep food safe when packing lunches.

“Food safety, especially during back-to-school is very important. We do know that children, especially young children, are one of the most at-risk groups for foodborne illness,” according to United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service Specialist Kenneth King.

King says hand washing is the first step to food safety and recommends kids bring hand sanitizer to school with at least 60% alcohol — noting that germs tend to spread quickly in schools.

When prepping lunches, King recommends parents use different colored cutting boards to avoid cross contamination and suggests using food thermometers to ensure food is cooked at a safe temperature.

Packing lunch in insulated soft-sided lunch boxes with gel packs can keep food cold longer rather than packing lunch in brown paper bags, King said, adding, “unfortunately, the brown paper lunch bags do not keep the cold air in the food, even with an ice source, and oftentimes as that ice pack or gel pack begins to thaw, it causes the bag to get wet and then holes open up in the bag and the cold air is gone and food can go bad pretty quickly.”