Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New Study: Packed Lunch Bags Foster Bacteria Growth

On Tuesday, August 9, 2011, a study found that bag lunches may foster bacteria growth in perishable foods, even if the bags are insulated and/or contain multiple ice packs.
Eight scientists from Texas set out to study bacteria growth in lunch bags to evaluate the risk of germs inhabiting our food.  Because children have a higher risk of developing food borne infections, they conducted the study at nine private child-care centers.  An electronic temperature gun was used to measure the temperature of packed lunch items, which were checked at random three different times. To help determine the risk of germs, a food’s temperature was considered unacceptable if it fell between 4° and 60° Celsius (39° to 140° Fahrenheit).
The results of the study had astonishing outcomes:
-       Out of 618 perishable foods packed in a lunch bag with just one ice pack, only 14 of the food items were considered acceptable 90 minutes prior to consumption. (About 22.7% acceptance)
-       Out of 61 perishable foods packed in a lunch bag with multiple ice packs, only 5 of the food items were considered acceptable 90 minutes prior to consumption. (About 82% acceptance)
-       Some lunches that were placed in a refrigerator were also deemed unacceptable.  This could have resulted from several factors: the type of lunch bag, the internal temperature of the refrigerator, and/or the amount of time the lunch was at room temperature before being placed in the fridge.
What can we take from these findings?
-       It’s safer to pack a lunch bag with multiple ice packs than just one.
-       Try freezing food the night before and placing it in a lunch bag…in addition to multiple ice packs.
-       How about freezing a juice box? That can add to the insulation in your lunch bag…oh, and add multiple ice packs.
-       Avoid leaving foods out for prolonged periods of time.  Pack it at the last minute possible…with multiple ice packs.
Notice something? Ice packs, ice packs and more ice packs!
Personally, I have always thought one ice pack was enough, or I have packed my lunch and left it out for a while before realizing I had forgotten to place it in the fridge. Time for me to re-think my packing skills!
~ Hannah

Resources: Science News
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