Meals & Recipes

Packing A Safe School Lunch

A study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that more than 90 percent of sack lunches were kept at unsafe temperatures, exposing children to foodborne illnesses. Even lunches that included ice packs reached unsafe temperatures if too few were included or if too much time passed before lunchtime and the ice pack melted, the report found.

In the study, published in Pediatrics , sack lunches of more than 700 preschoolers were examined. Although about 45 percent of lunches had at least one ice pack, only 1.6 percent of lunches with perishable items were found to be cool enough to be safe. Of the 1,631 perishable food items in the lunches that were studied, only 22 items were found to be in an acceptable temperature range. More were at dangerously warm temperatures.

For parents, this study should serve as a wake-up call. Children are at particular risk for foodborne illnesses. Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirm that children younger than four years old have four and a half times the number of bacterial infection incidents transmitted through food compared with adults.

Symptoms of foodborne illness are unpleasant and debilitating. Severe cases, especially in young children whose immune systems are not fully developed, can lead to serious medical issues such as kidney problems, malnutrition, and even death, the study noted.

Keeping food cool is an important way to prevent bacteria from growing and making kids sick.

Some tips for parents:

KiKi Bochi is an award-winning writer and editor who hates packing lunches but wants them to be safe.

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