Parenting: Brown-bag lunches unsafe?

August 10, 2011

The study found that 90-percent of lunches made at home are at an unsafe temperature by the time your child eats it, according to USDA guidelines.

What's more the study, which was published online on August 8th, found that insulated containers or ice-packs don't really do much to keep the lunches from overheating. As one researcher put it, the findings are a real "eye-opener", because usually when a child comes home with a stomachache or vomiting, most parents think it's a virus and not the food he brought from home.

But now health experts are saying it could have been a food-borne illness. When lunches brought from home are kept at improper temperatures, bacteria can multiply rapidly and our kids can get sick. In fact, food-borne illness is a particular risk for youngsters under five-years-old, according to many pediatricians.

The study was conducted at nine day care centers in Texas. Researchers tested the temperature of various perishable items from more than 700 lunchboxes. The tests were actually conducted one-and-a-half hours before the kid's scheduled lunchtimes, and they found that close to 90-percent of those brown bags and lunchboxes were kept at room temperature, not refrigerated, and were unsafe to eat. What's more, most of those lunches had no ice packs to keep the food cold.

By the way the USDA recommends that no food should sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

And the use of refrigerators didn't help much either apparently. Refrigerated home-packed lunches were still found to be at improper temperatures because the foods were left in insulated containers, which allowed the container to actually insulate the lunch from the refrigerator.

So with school beginning in about a month, this study should remind us to carefully pack our kids school lunches with food that's not so dependent on temperature, like fruit or peanut butter or perhaps freezing beverages like water or milk which will act as an additional ice pack to keep foods colder, and will thaw by lunchtime.

Food for thought.

Read more Parenting Perspective blogs by visiting the Parenting Channel on

Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.