Nearly all lunches packed from home get too warm to prevent foodborne illness despite use of ice packs, according to a study of preschoolers’ sack lunches. In fact, even with multiple ice packs, more than 90% of perishables in the lunches reached unsafe temperatures.
The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported that according to the study published in Pediatrics, when it comes to preschool-age children’s sack lunches, “only 1.6% of 1,361 perishable items were found to be in a safe temperature range.” The study also suggested that ice packs and refrigerators do not keep food sufficiently cool.
American Dietetic Association (ADA) spokeswoman Ruth Frechman recommended “putting lunches in well-insulated lunch bags with cold packs surrounding perishable foods” while dietitian Sarah Krieger suggested packing foods that are less likely to cause food-borne illness, like applesauce or hummus.
ABC News reported that University of Colorado School of Medicine pediatric infectious diseases expert Harley Rotbart said, “The risk from improperly refrigerated sack lunches is real, but relatively minor in the overall picture of foodborne illnesses. … The much greater risks come from inadequate handwashing — by food preparers and food consumers — and from home kitchen contamination of countertops, sinks and other inanimate objects with insufficiently cooked meat, chicken and fish.”
So, if you pack lunch for your kids to take to school, following the ADA advice makes sense.