Is your child’s lunch safe to eat? Most of us are in full swing and getting ready for back to school. A report that caught my attention last week was a report on packed school lunches. Many school lunches packed at home reach an unsafe temperature by the time your child eats it. A new study of 700 preschoolers lunches showed that more than 90 percent of the food sent from home was at an unsafe temperature before you child even got a chance to eat it. That is a scary thought. So here is the breakdown of what this study was about. The study took place in Texas at nine preschool child-care centers where they measured the temperature of the kids sandwiches, yogurts, and other perishable lunch foods brought from home. The results of testing the food with a temperature measuring gun showed that 97% percent of meats, 99% of dairy, and 99% of vegetables were stored at unsafe temperatures. Of the 1,361 perishable foods that were tested, only 22 were at temperatures considered safe. The researchers tested the temperature of individual items from 700 lunches. The foods were tested 1.5 hours before the kids’ scheduled lunch time. Here is what they found, 39 percent of the lunches had no ice packs, while 45 percent had just one ice pack. According to the USDA they recommend that cold food be kept at less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and that no food should be at room temperature for more than two hours. Most of the lunches tested were at room temperature, according to the study. Just 1.6 percent of perishable items were kept in the safe temperature zone recommended by the USDA.
As parents, one of our main concerns in keeping our kids healthy. So, to find out that we are sending our kids off to school with food that may make them sick because of improper temperature is alarming. Did you know that harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Staphylococcus aureus, grow and multiply at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If you remember in the study it found that the average average temperature of the perishable items that were in the lunchboxes were 63.7 degrees.
One complaint of the report is that it really did not offer any solution to parents. I would suggest that from now on no matter what buy an insulated lunch box and double up on ice packs in there. I did read that someone suggested that parents could pack food for their children that isn’t so dependent on being kept at a proper temperature, like fruit or peanut butter. This would mean definitely avoiding using mayonnaise which would spoil quickly. Don’t give your kids leftovers as they require much less time for the bacteria to multiply to an unsafe level. Another suggestion is to Freeze it when you can; freeze juices and waters so this will keep the juice fresh and will also keep other foods chilled in the process. We even freeze the tube yogurts and soft cheese the night before. Fruits and Vegetables without dips are a perfect choice anytime! If you are packing them a whole apple or orange that doesn’t have to be cold put it in anyway to get cold so that it helps keep the overall temperature of the lunch box lower.