U. TEXAS-AUSTIN (US) — More than 90 percent of sack lunches prepared at home and sent with children to preschool are kept at unsafe temperatures.
A new study, published online in the journal Pediatrics, says too many lunches are stored in the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees. The best storage temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for cold foods and above 140 degrees for hot foods.
“Parents need to be aware of how important the storage temperature is for foods they pack for their young children,” says lead author Fawaz Almansour, a graduate student of nutritional science at University of Texas at Austin.
Researchers collected data on sack lunches from more than 700 preschoolers at nine Texas child care centers. The lunches were measured with noncontact temperature guns one and one-half hours before the food was served.
Results showed that 39 percent had no supplemental ice packs—and even including lunches with ice packs, 88 percent were at room temperature. Less than 2 percent of lunches with perishable items were found to be in a safe temperature zone, while more than 90 percent (even with multiple ice packs) were kept at unsafe temperatures.
Perishable items studied included meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Prepackaged foods produced by manufacturers were not included in the study.
“The simple addition of one extra icepack could have prevented many of the perishable items in lunches from reaching the danger zone,” according to the study. The addition of two or more icepacks in lunches could help prevent food-borne illness in children.
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