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The Hidden Danger Lurking in Your Preschooler's Lunch

You pack your child’s lunch with love, making sure to avoid potential choking hazards, allergy aversions and food expiration dates, right? Sure you do, but did you ever stop to consider the temperature of the food your child is eating may cause them illness? I hadn’t.

In a recent news release by the American Academy of Pediatrics, they warn that preschooler’s sack lunches may reach unsafe temperatures:

Sack lunches packed by parents can be an inexpensive alternative to school-prepared lunches, but they can also make kids sick if not kept at a safe temperature. Even lunches that include ice packs can reach unsafe temperatures. In the study, “Temperature of Foods Sent by Parents of Preschool-aged Children,” published in the September 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online Aug. 8), the sack lunches of more than 700 preschoolers at nine Texas child care centers were measured with noncontact temperature guns 1.5 hours before the food was served. Researchers found that 39 percent of the 705 lunches had no ice packs, 45.1 percent had at least one ice pack, and 88.2 percent of lunches were at room temperature. Only 1.6 percent of lunches with perishable items were found to be in a safe temperature zone, while over 90 percent (even with multiple ice packs) were kept at unsafe temperatures. Study authors suggest that parents and the public need to be educated on safe food packing practices in order to prevent bacteria from growing and potentially causing illness.

So what’s a parent to do?

Well, there are a number of things we can do to help keep our children safe:

  • Use an insulated lunch bag and include two ice packs
  • Consider freezing your child’s perishable items the night before packing their lunch
  • Store your child’s lunch in your preschool’s refrigerator
  • Discuss safe food storage options with your preschool director
  • Pack fewer perishable items

Working together with our preschools can ensure health safety for our kids!

More on Toddler Times:

Earthquakes and Kids: What You Need to Know

Give a Kid a Cardboard Box

It Won’t be Much Longer…

Babble’s got it in the bag: Best Kids Lunch Boxes!

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