What’s lurking in your kids’ lunch bags?

Following Chapman, which I seem to be doing more frequently lately (and that is preferred) I had my own thoughts, published in Canada, on school lunches.

simpsons.lunch.lady.09According to Doug Powell, former professor of food safety at the University of Guelph, reusable lunch bags make attractive breeding grounds for germs. “The risk of illness is low, but it’s difficult to quantify,” he says. “Most foodborne illness goes unreported. What you want to do is get ahead of it and be preventative. That means cleaning thoroughly every day.”

Since most schools don’t offer refrigeration for kids’ lunches, an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack inside (or in a pinch, a frozen water bottle) can help keep foods cool until lunchtime.

“Any food can have a risk, but some foods are riskier than others,” says Powell. Types of foods that Powell says are more likely to carry bacteria include cantaloupe (its soft, porous skin can be a breeding ground for germs), raw sprouts (they can easily become contaminated with E. coli and salmonella in the high-moisture environment they grow in) and meats from the deli counter (deli slicers are hard to clean, so listeria can build up over time).

lunch.box.jan.14While kids might be fine with skipping the cantaloupe and sprouts, they might not be quite as happy about giving up their lunch meats. If you’d rather not avoid the deli counter altogether, Powell recommends being extra careful about keeping deli meats refrigerated and not storing them for more than two to three days.

I use a frozen water bottle along with an ice pack.