September 01, 2011
1 min read

Many sack lunches unsafe to eat by lunchtime

Almansour FD. Pediatrics. 2011;doi:10.1542/peds.2010-2885.

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Using ice packs or insulated bags to keep children’s school lunches cold may not be enough, as more than 90% of perishables contained in school lunches reached unsafe temperatures by the time they were to be consumed, according to a study published online.

Fawaz D. Almansour, MS, of the University of Texas, and colleagues looked at 705 lunches from day care attendees. The researchers said only 1.6% of the perishable items remained at a safe temperature at the time they did their analysis, which was before the lunches were scheduled to be eaten. The investigators found that 97.4% of the meats, 99% of the dairy and 98.5% of vegetables were not in an acceptable temperature range.

Only four of the 458 items stored in refrigerators were an acceptable temperature. The study researchers said many of the lunches that required refrigeration were left out for a period of time before refrigeration. Even with multiple ice packs, more than 90% of lunch items were at unsafe temperatures.

“Education of parents and the public must be focused on methods of packing lunches that allow the food to remain in the safe temperature zone to prevent foodborne illness,” the study researchers concluded.

They said keeping foods less than 39.2·F is “critical in the prevention of foodborne illness.”

Disclosure: The study was funded by the NIH, and the researchers reported no relevant financial disclosures.

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