The bacteria culprit in your child's packed lunch

Posted at 9:28 PM, Oct 14, 2018

BALTIMORE - Food safety experts are warning parents to be mindful when packing perishables like sandwiches and yogurts in your child's lunch.

Tanya Brown with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said you're looking at a two-hour window before those brown bag lunches become breeding grounds for bacteria.

“You should not put perishable items like bologna sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, cheese or yogurt in a brown paper bag and send a child to school with it,” Brown said.

Foods can hit the "danger zone," or temperatures between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit, when it’s left out of refrigeration over two hours. After four hours, the food item should be tossed.

“You want to make sure you put them in an insulated lunch bag with at least two cold sources and those two cold sources could be a frozen water bottle or frozen juice packs or gel packs in there. So, you want to put those perishable items in there and make sure the child does not open the bag and keep opening and closing the bag before lunchtime,” said Brown.

If you're sending them with something hot, use a thermos, and warm it up first.

“The best way to prepare it is to pour boiling hot water into the thermos first, then discard the hot water and then put the hot soup or stew in there. Make sure it's at 165 degrees Fahrenheit,” Brown said.

However, the leading cause of sickness is poor hand washing. Brown said this is an easy problem to solve:

“Oftentimes, children don't get an opportunity to wash their hands before they go to lunch and just to trigger their memory put a moist toilette in there or some hand sanitizer to remind them before they start to eat their lunch,” she said.

Click here for more information on the danger zone and safe handling of food.