Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Parent to Parent: Lunch box safety
Moms and dads, you know making school lunches can be a tedious job, but are you making the grade when it comes to lunch box safety? In today's Parent to Parent, Lynn Martinez puts one family to the test.
WSVN -- Cynthia has four kids with four different tastes, so she starts packing lunches early but sometimes wonders if what she packs her picky eaters could be making them sick.
Arlene Boyle, Food Safety Expert: "Often times they think it's the stomach bug or the stomach flu, something that is going around where it very well could have been from something they ate."
Seven news put her four lunches to the temperature test. Lunch number one: a tuna sandwich with a starting temperature of 66 degrees. Lunch number two, a turkey sandwich with mayo, starting temperature 49 degrees.
Arlene Boyle: "Anytime it goes above 41 degrees the bacteria is starting to grow, so the sandwiches, even after just preparing them, they're already starting to grow bacteria."
Lunch number three: yogurt, starting at a cool 40 degrees, and, lunch number four, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a high of 71 degrees. Normally, the kids head out the door with the lunch, but, since we're testing them, we hung them here to recreate the same conditions as school.
Cynthia Judd: "When you pack it in the morning, and it looks good, you just kind of assume by the time they eat lunch it looks that good."
Four hours later it's lunch time and time to do a temperature check. Lunch number one, that tuna sandwich stayed the same, 66 degrees, but remember it was already too warm to begin with. Bacteria starts to grow above 41 degrees. Lunch number two, a turkey sandwich with mayo, went up 15 degrees.
Lunch number three, yogurt, rose even higher, more than 20 degrees.
Arlene Boyle: "Now we are getting already 61 on the yogurt."
In all three of these lunches the bacteria is creeping up closer to the danger zone.
Arlene Boyle: "Anywhere between 70 and 125 is known as the extreme temperature danger zone, so that is where bacteria is really going to be multiplying."
So, parents, here's what you can do: number one, keep it cool. Pack sandwiches and yogurts with ice packs and use thermal lunch boxes, or pack a lunch that can take the heat, like the peanut butter and jelly, which can handle high temperatures.
Arlene Boyle: "It's not a potentially hazardous food, so we're really not worried about bacteria growth."
Lynn Martinez: "Another rule of thumb, the cooler something starts out the better, so before you make the sandwiches put ingredients like bread and even tuna cans inside the fridge. This way your kids eat a safe lunch instead of one that could make them sick."