What’s The Difference Between a Sack Lunch & a Recently Beating Heart?

Hi Readers — Nothing, as you know, is safe enough for children. Not notebook paper (as we saw a few posts below). Not toddling (as evidenced by the existence of the ThudGuard). And not old-fashioned spoons (which explains the kiddie spoons that change color when food is “too hot.”)   And now, it turns out, not even a home-packed sack lunch is safe enough. Or at least, that’s how this story was reported:

9 Out of 10 Preschoolers’ Lunches Reach Unsafe temperatures

According to this MSNBC account, “Unsafe,  as the researchers defined it, was anything that sat for more than two hours between 39 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.”

So basically it sounds like “unsafe” = any food that sat for more than two hours in room temperature almost anywhere on earth (and possibly Mars). Despite the fact that most of us adults went to school carrying sandwiches  we kept in our clammy lockers from arrival till lunch time — and are alive today — this became a huge news story, carried by TV and newspapers thrilled to have a new thing to warn parents about, a new everyday danger they must protect their children from.

….Even though, as it turns out,  the lukewarm lunches don’t mean that kids are actually getting sick. That was one of the fine points much further down in the stories, after the dire IS YOUR CHILD’S LUNCH UNSAFE?-type headlines.

So — what is the point? We should start worrying about sack lunches that have never been shown to hurt children just because a rather strange study of a non-problem found that there COULD be a problem if only there was one?

And yet, the press could not stop itself: “Should Parents Bag the Brown Bag?” asked the once-unflappable Boston Globe, as if one study proving something that every parent pas personally witnessed as non-threatening should now throw us all for a loop. It’s like that old joke, “Who are you going to believe? Me or your own lying eyes?”

Yes, I suppose it is better NOT to serve lukewarm yogurt and listless lettuce. But when, as the researchers determined, “just 1.6 percent of the perishable yogurts, cheese slices, carrot sticks, bologna and other items were at the proper temperature when pre-schoolers were ready to eat them,” it appears that 98% of everything kids eat from home is a dire threat, even if their parents packed their lunches with an ice pack. Yes! Forty percent of the 700 lunches surveyed contained a lovingly packed (and apparently useless) ice thingy.

Not to go to the old, “We ate curdled pudding and we LIKED it!” saw, but now parents are being asked to transport their kids’ lunches thusly, according to boston.com:

The researchers recommend brown bagging it and transporting the bag to the day care center in a small cooler filled with ice packs. Parents should then take the brown bag out of the cooler and put it directly into the center’s refrigerator — hopefully there is one and it’s set at the right temperature.

Excuse me — isn’t that the procedure formerly reserved for ORGAN TRANSPLANTS?

And, by the way, doesn’t this advice pre-suppose no kids are walking to school with their parents? Because who is going to lug along a cooler stuffed with ice packs?

My friends: This is how society changes. Not with a cataclysmic coup, but with thousands of little “tips” that trade one kind of lifestyle (walking to school, dropping a kid off ) with another (driving to school, coming inside, overseeing the lunch transfer).

And we wonder why parents feel so overwhelmed with everything they “have” to do and all the expectations for their constant involvement. When even a sack lunch is now a deathly danger, parents must be ever-present and ever on guard.

On the upside, if they ever DO have to transfer a heart or a liver, I guess they’ll have had plenty or practice.  — Lenore

Kids in grave danger from...their lunches?

232 Responses

  1. Yeah, instead kids should eat the overly processed, not-even-cooked-at-school lunches served in the cafeteria. With limp soggy veggies, utterly flat, smooth “meat,” and moldy grapes if you are lucky.

    Cafeteria lunches are generally a disgrace to eating.

  2. Looks to me like just another step towards making it illegal for kids to bring lunches from home, and forcing all of them to eat food prepared at school (or go hungry). I suspect the unions are behind this, since it would mean more jobs for folks who work in school cafeterias. In non-right-to-work states this will mean more people who are forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment, enhancing the wealth and influence of the union bosses. The nanny state is alive and well and growing larger and more intrusive by the minute.

  3. yeesh.
    also – I didn’t realize there’s a “proper” temperature for carrots!

  4. I saw that study linked on another blog a few weeks ago and thought it was silly then too. Obviously you’re not going to want to leave meat, milk or foods made with mayonnaise at room temperature for a long time before eating them (although I do remember taking egg salad sandwiches to school in a brown paper bag and leaving them in my locker all morning – still alive) but really, the average lunch is going to be fine for the few hours between arriving at school/daycare and eating. If it weren’t, every kid would have food poisoning constantly, and well, they don’t. For that matter, everyone who lived in the 100,000 years or so of human civilization before refrigeration was invented would have died before they could reproduce – I’m sure the leftover bison got pretty warm as it sat around waiting for the next meal.

    At my daughter’s former elementary school, kids who brought lunch instead of buying were required to leave their lunch boxes outside the classroom with their backpacks, which to be honest did bother me somewhat – we live in California, and it can still be 80 degrees in October or November. Usually she brought peanut butter sandwiches, which are pretty hardy, but I remember one particular occasion in about third grade when she’d taken leftover pizza, and at the end of the day I realized I’d forgotten to put the ice pack in her lunch (which I guess wasn’t helping anyway, according to this study). I said, “Oh gosh, was your pizza still cold when you ate it?” and she said cheerfully “Nope! It was heated by nature’s oven,” i.e. the sun. That kind of made me gag, but she never had the slightest ill effect from it.

  5. I had one of those color-changing kiddie spoons! Except I’m pretty sure it could change color if you just held it for long enough. Which leads me to believe that it was less of something for the parent to go, “OH MY GOD YOUR FOOD IS TOO HOT!!!” and more of something for the kids to go, “THIS IS THE BEST TOY EVER!!!” At least I treated it like the best toy ever for a while. (Of course, my mother was the one who banned Mulan for its “morally objectionable” theme, so maybe it was a Paranoid Parent tool.)

    Anyway. The link to the study isn’t working, fyi, though I managed to find my way to it.

    It’s ridiculous how one study that doesn’t tell us anything except “brown bag food is usually at this temperature! and it’s unsafe! because we say so!” is portrayed as “OMG KIDS ARE GETTING SICK FROM THIS”. It reminds me of a study saying computer use caused depression… because, y’know, interviewing a bunch of kids and seeing that those with depression have a higher amount of computer use TOTALLY can’t mean anything but “COMPUTERS CAUSE DEPRESSION”. Because it’s absolutely unfathomable to think already-depressed kids might use the internet more because it’s therapeutic for them and/or they have internet friends that they need for emotional support because they aren’t getting it from friends or family!

    …right. Ramble over.

    But honestly. I am very tired of leaky scientific studies (that’s right, leaky. They’re full of holes, and hence they leak) causing people to “OMG PANIC!!!”.

  6. I’m still going to pack a lunch. With an ice pack. And not worry one bit!!

  7. More bubble wrap! The children can still move!

    This is so ridiculous. I wish I could’ve turned in my mom for child abuse based on some of the lunches I choked down. But, as testimony to the fact that it didn’t kill me… well, here I am.

    This reminds me of a battle I had w/ admin in my daughter’s middle school. She has autism and like many people w/ autism, has some very narrow food preferences. One of the things she will eat are those microwaveable Chef-Boy-R-Dee things (I know, I hate it too, but there you go.)

    Anyway, they refused to do it b/c they “might get it too hot” and didn’t want to “be responsible.”

    She will not eat most things that you can pack in lunches, so whatever I sent, or if she bought her food, largely went untouched… which led to behavior issues later in the day.

    So tired of the stupidity.

  8. More 1st world “problems”. Sheesh, a thinking person would realize a lunch brought from home has never made *them* sick and the story is as flat and stale as the lunches they tested.

  9. @bob- That had not occurred to me but I bet that’s spot-on. A few years ago my son’s elementary banished “birthday cupcakes” because they “competed with the cafeteria.”

  10. Sheesh. We bring cheese backpacking, and it goes without refrigeration for days. So far none of us have taken ill. We also typically bring in some sausages to cook up for dinner the first night. Oh, and blueberries that last a few days without refrigeration. I’m just astounded at the excess the world we live in… How did people ever survive in the past?

  11. Yep. You know… when I look at American society, I think of chickens. All it takes is one to sound an alarm over ANYTHING no matter how big or small, and all the rest go running until they figure out that the new stone in the pen really isn’t a boogey man. We are a society of chickens now. There’s no more independent, free spirit who is capable of handling any situation – there’s a batch of people who agonize over the smallest trifle, run from the “monsters,” and force those of us with some sense left to deal with their over-the-top reactions.

    If ever I get enough money to move, I’m leaving this country. I don’t know what happened to my America, but it’s clear it’s not coming back from wherever it went and it’s left me here with these kinds of people (though obviously, you all here are in the same boat). *sigh* I know they say when you get lost you should stay put – but I think I’m done waiting.

  12. It’s a war on any food or drinks brought in from outside, just like at some sporting venues where you can’t bring drinks from home.

  13. I actually prefer my yogurt and fruit at room temperature. (or at least as “warm” as they get sitting on my desk until lunch time in an insulated container. I only consider tossing my leftovers into the fridge if it has meat in it. (And even then, rarely since the fridge is crowded)
    When I am home and eat a yogurt from the fridge it always seems strange and too cold.

  14. Mine has brown bagged it for years now with no problem. However, prior to brown bagging, she had food poisoning 3 times – all 3 times from school lunches.

    I will home school before I buy a school lunch. I already pulled her out of a summer camp that had lunch included in the price of tuition when I found out that lunch every day was fast food dollar menu crap or happy meals.

  15. I saw this report on The Today Show. They didn’t cite any of the research, other that ‘pre-schools were surveyed.” Their research seemed flimsy at best.

  16. Excuse me, the unions? THE UNIONS??? Hahahahahahahahaha!!!

  17. You are a genius Lenore.

  18. I am *so* doing the bullshit dance over here. I have been packing lunches for 4 years now, and they may consist of anything from salad to sandwiches to leftovers from the night before (only including an ice pack when the contents tasted better cold, or during day camp, when the lunch is to be outside for a while, instead of in a classroom), and in MY studies, I concluded that anything that did not have excessive bacteria going in was not unsafe half a day later. IN FACT, I have even heard that there used to be such a thing as NOT HAVING A REFRIGERATOR and things staying good for days. You know, like how you might leave a pie out on the counter. AND ANOTHER THING, many of our foods are processed and salted using old techniques from before refrigeration and thus were designed to be preserved – not for hours, but for much longer (cheese, cured meats, pickles, etc.). Oh good grief. I have been waiting for this fight. BRING IT.

  19. At my son’s kindy (preschool), they have a fridge for the yoghurt so you just name it and put it in the fridge when you get there. And THEY provide the fruit (thanks government for the subsidies to kindy’s that do this!) so whatever is in their lunchbox is what they get. The only things the kindy’s don’t want is just junk food coming in lunch boxes. But they do make exceptions for children who have issues with food (like my autistic son) as long as it is a balanced meal of some description.

  20. I’m pretty sure my daughter doesn’t even put an ice pack in her lunch (she has one, or three, but they seem to stay in the freezer). She did use an ice pack for camp this summer, when her lunchbox was outside in the sun until they ate it – noone got sick from eating their food 3-4 hours after it was packed. She’ll pack salad, ham sandwiches, turkey, cheese, peanut butter & jelly, and now she claims to like mayo so she’ll probably be using that this year. Not to mention leftovers, but that might be ok because it goes in the thermos. And you know what? If it doesn’t taste good by lunchtime, she probably won’t pack the same item the next day (or at least, not without an ice pack). And it doesn’t affect *me* at all, so I see no reason to get involved – I make sure there is adequate food for lunches at home, she handles what she brings and how it gets packed. Not a parent’s issue, IMO!

  21. My kids bring lunch to school every day. I’ll admit the cafeteria has been tempting me to let them buy occasionally, as they have a salad bar option, but I know full well the kids would be more prone toward taking the other food, especially if it’s pizza. I do let them buy school lunch a few times a year, just as a way to buy something on their own. No card, no memorizing their student number, they have to handle the money.

    I figure the ice pack plus their heavily iced drinks will do enough. They have yet to get food poisoning, so I must be doing something well enough. Considering we’re having 100+ temperatures right now and my daughter’s class leaves their bags outside, I’m always happy to hear that things stayed cold.

  22. My kids will bike their lunches in their backpacks to school tomorrow. They’ve never complained of room temperature PBJ’s or veggies. They HAVE complained about the school lunches served on the disinfected trays (they say they taste like chemicals.)
    Lunches being treated like organ transplants. Brilliant.

  23. Perhaps the kids are protected from bacteria by the protective layer of blubber they sport.

  24. […] might I be opining on school lunch temperatures?  Because of this thing brought to my attention by Lenore Skenazy: Ninety percent of the 705-preschooler sack lunches tested by University of Texas scientists had […]

  25. If you take this study seriously, ALL the food at my house is unsafe because I didn’t keep it in an iced cooler on the way home from the grocery store. To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, “You keep using the word unsafe. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  26. Isn’t the point of yoghurt that it is a way to preserve milk without refrigeration? Sure, I keep mine in the fridge after it’s fermented to my liking, but I say if your yoghurt can’t stand a few hours outside of the refrigerator, there’s something wrong with your yoghurt. 🙂

    If those of us who found homemade lunches healthful (not to mention much more palatable and inexpensive than school food) are being told the practice is not safe for our children, maybe we should suspect the food, not the practice.

    It helps quell the panic a bit to learn something of practices in other countries — like Switzerland, where they never refrigerate their eggs. If our eggs require refrigeration, maybe we should learn something from the Swiss about how to process and distribute eggs.

    A spoon that changes color to tell you when your food is too hot to eat? I am shaking my head in disbelief. Do they really think babies are too stupid to figure that out for themselves?

  27. On a side note…ever read the ingredients in a Lunchable? My favorite was “cheese product and re-hydrated ham”…included a water (with packet of cool-aid to pour in it, or, as I watched a child do, directly into his mouth) and a sugar FREE jello (just to cover all the chemical content bases)…I started collecting the ingredients list while working as a feeding therapist in a school lunchroom…

    My own go with warm school lunches.

  28. oh for goodness sake. Perhaps the human race should just stop having children altogether as there is such danger around everywhere.

  29. Yeah, “we” all lived through it, but that ignores the millions of people who aren’t here to say “I died from Multiple Yucky-And-Soggy Sandwichosis [MyASS].

  30. Unfortunately, most of the young parents that actually believe this study will have grown up with school lunches and never brown-bagged it at all. No “it didn’t hurt me, therefore the study is bunk” experience to fall back on.

  31. Yep. Bacteria are everywhere. Everywhere! Safely handled, properly chilled food is brimming with bacteria. Warmed over, five hour old, jelly knife licked repeatedly, pb&j that my kid made (by herself) is slightly more brimming. It’s true, easily testable, and undeniable. But why is this news? Like at all? There are other things going on in the world and even other school lunch stories (some kids still go hungry) that could fill this space in the newscast. Lazy journalism, or something more nefarious? The bottom line is that we need to not be lazy consumers of news. Good on Lenore for questioning these things. We could all go further and jot off an email to the news station or paper everytime we see something like this. Something along the lines of, “Really? Really?!?”
    The really exciting headline should read, “Children Consume Billions of Bacteria Daily and Live! Human Body is Amazing!”

  32. Mayonnaise is pasteurized.

  33. The assault on home lunches at school has nothing to do with nutrition, safety or their concern about children, and everything to do with the powerful unions that control most of the school cafeterias in public schools. Their profit is based on how many children eat their slop. What better way to maximize profit, than to ensure that no child has an option.

    It’s also why I get at least three calls a year, from the ACORN (or what ever name they operate under now) funded Family Resources Center in our school, to “remind” me that they are sure that my children would qualify for reduced lunches, if only I’d fill out the form. It drives them crazy that there are five children that they aren’t making a profit off of.

  34. I hate these kinds of stories! The ones about how full of bacteria your toothbrush or mattress is, the ones about all the e-coli found on seats at movie theaters. Of course this stuff is everywhere, but is it doing you any harm??? Maybe certain people with compromised immune systems need this info, but for the most of us it really doesn’t matter. Sanitized living conditions actually make people more sick, your body has nothing to fight and starts fighting other things. Suddenly asthma and allergies are through the roof. I was never sick from the food in my metal lunchbox and my kids have never gotten sick from the food in theirs! The real danger is that 20 years from now the parent who sends a ham sandwich in a brown bag will be glared at, the teacher may even call CPS. Currently a parent bringing in a cooler with ice and asking to transfer to a refrigerator would be looked at as crazy, but in the future anyone who doesn’t will be seen as unfit and uncaring. It is very frighting how normal turns into abnormal and abnormal turns into normal.

  35. @ Linda Wightman – yes, people do seem to think babies are too stupid to avoid putting hot food in their mouths. Wait, strike the word “babies” and sub in “children”. I recently had friends over and one mom (of a four-year-old) hesitated before giving her daughter a slice of homemade pizza, turning to ask me “is it hot?” I was floored. First of all, you just watched it come out of the oven. Second, I find that most kids that age do just fine with a quick reminder to “wait or blow on it – it might be hot.” And who hasn’t burned the roof of their mouth once or twice on pizza?

    Anyhow, the answer to your question is, apparently, yes.

  36. @Decemberbaby — so sad. My 13-month-old grandson can be trusted with very hot food on his plate (and has been for a few months now). He’ll approach it gingerly with one finger, say “hot” if it is (and sometimes if it’s not, to be completely truthful), then test it again periodically until it is a temperature he is comfortable with. I can’t imagine a four-year-old not able to do the same.

  37. The solution presumes a parental ride to school and walking is too far beyond the pale even to bear mention. What about if your kid rides the bus? Are school buses now going to have coolers with enough ice packs for the ride? How will you be sure your child gets the correct lunch? What if your child has a food allergy and can’t be exposed to peanut butter?!

    Sorry. The hysteria overcame me.

  38. When I saw this on the news they said to be sure fruits were also kept at refrigerator temperature. Really? Because when I buy my pears, apples, peaches, plums, grapes, strawberries, etc. etc. at the local market none of it is refrigerated. Does this mean I’m going to die?!?! I better stop eating those things ASAP!

  39. One wonders why we don’t refrigerate trees and fields just to be safe.

  40. I mean, in orchards and on farms.

  41. What do people do in those warm parts of the world where most people don’t have refrigerators? Do they have to eat directly from the bean plant?

    I’m starting to get worried about a global catastrophe.

  42. So when my kids gets sick because of their *lack* of exposure to bacteria has caused their immune systems to become impotent who do I get to sue? The media who posted that story everywhere (read it three different places) or the boneheads who studied lunches that weren’t making kids sick?

    Pursuing lawsuits because too much safety is preventing our kids from developing necessary skills/immunities may be the only way to end this ridiculousness.

    @Steph and Linda Wightman That kind of thought process might get you arrested here in the states. Look at the armed Rawsome raid. Not one person sick but three were arrested, one of the charges being improper temperature of eggs.

  43. hysterically funny writing from Lenore!
    Love it…

  44. Oh come on, we know EXACTLY what the goal really is. They want parents to stop packing lunches altogether and buy school lunches. The more kids buy their lunches at school, then the more parents will seek out government assistance paying for said lunches. Then the inevitable legislation to provide “safe” lunches for every child, whether their parents need the assistance or not.

    “We can’t trust parents to pack safe lunches, and we can’t trust any food brought from home. You eat what we serve you. Period.”

    That’s the next step. And then how far is it to all-day schooling to ensure that children are kept “safe” from their parents all day. And then… state run boarding schools?

  45. Vicky and Cate, you beat me to it. How, exactly, are we to get this food to our homes “safely”? Either we all have to “eat out” or we are exposing our foods to the same conditions.

    I will admit to bringing a cooler with me when I go to the store but usually that is because I go to the store at 9:00 am and stay in town until 3 pm, or, the temp is 103 degrees and I don’t have AC in my car. (And and prefer my ice-cream to be a solid still when I get home.)

    Like many others, I ate my sandwiches with mayo for many years for school lunch, before those ice packs were available. At one point I worked in a machine shop and the owner, a bachelor, would eat food from the frigde left there for over a week, or subs that had sat out for over 12 hours at 100 degrees. He never seemed to get sick (although most of us figured that he should.)

    Last week was the county fair, and my kids had ducks in the fair and had to be there all day, every day. I brought the cooler, and one day we had quiche (made about 5 days before) that sat in the cooler all day. It was room temp despite ice by the time we ate, but somehow we didn’t get sick. Everyone had seconds.

    I am not going to worry about my or my kids’ lunches. I worry more about sickness transmitted through snot or other fluids from bought food than I do about food poisoning from the meals I make.

  46. Heather, improper temperature of eggs…how funny! If the egg is not washed (washing off the protective layer) they do not need to be refrigerated. Right now I have a week’s worth of duck eggs on the counter that are fresher than anything I could buy at the store. (But, once they are cooled they need to stay cooled.)

    My husband has a friend who buys about 12 dozen eggs at a time from Mennonite farmers and puts them in the corner of the kitchen to eat over the next month.

    If I am worried about the age of my eggs I put them in water, if they float, they are bad. If not they are still good. Our society is too concerned about this. Most people in the world do not have access to refrigeration, and they do fine, as well all know. Well except maybe the authors of that study and the people who conducted that raid.

  47. I wanted to let Lenore know about a spot I heard on the local NPR news this weekend. There was recently an attempted abduction of a toddler in our community from her grandma’s front yard. Grandma saw and chased down the woman. So the reporter was asking the sheriff how to keep children safe and he made the following points: there is no serial kidnapper on the loose, arrests were made appropriately, children should not be kept inside out of fear, adults should be alert, and children should play & walk places in pairs or groups. Hurrah for common sense even when the unusual happens.

  48. Weird, we don’t have this school lunch thing in New Zealand, most kids bring their own, very few kids buy lunch everyday (in fact most primary schools only do lunch orders 2 or 3 times a week). And yet we don’t have half the school out with food poisoning.
    Okay, must confess, my two, like most of their class mates, take their lunches to school in lunch boxes that are little soft sided chilly bins. But its not so much to do with keeping the food cold, its more you can fit in the reusable containers easier (our school heavily discourages plastic wrap and non reusable plastic), and the soft chillys seems to last longer than the ridged plastic ones as well.

  49. The last time I checked, the FDA said that perishable foods should be discarded when they had been between 39 and 140 degrees for FOUR hours total. (So, theoretically, the researchers are assuming that the foods are hanging around for another TWO hours in potentially unsafe temps before going into PRE-school.)

    P.S. the report appears to be about PRE-SCHOOLS, so the walking question (outside of major metro areas) is probably moot: most people put their kids in pre-schools where they can drop them off on the way to work– and the number of 3-5 year olds responsible enough to walk to preschool alone appears to be rather small.

    PPS. your link is broken. Here’s the bit.ly version:

  50. I grew up eating olive loaf and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise on Roman Meal bread in a metal lunchbox or a brown paper bag. How many times did I get sick? Not once–and neither did any of the other kids in my school.

    The only time I remember my mom worrying about the temperature of my sack lunch was on field trips. Then she was sure to make PB&J (another no-no today) with a can of soda that she insulated until it was practically its own thermos.

  51. Good grief!!! I STILL leave my sandwiches out until lunch when I take them to work. Bread dries out in the frig. How did I survive all these years while taking lunch to school and work?

  52. If this were really a problem, there would be tons of kids getting sick from their lunches. But I have never heard of a kid getting sick from their lunch. It’s just silly. If it’s something that shouldn’t get too warm, put an ice pack in. It might not stay as cold as the fridge, but you won’t get sick off it. School kids eat their lunches ridiculously early anyway. There isn’t that much time for food to go off.

  53. My first summer job, many moons ago, was detassling corn. We worked all day, and had to bring sack lunches that were all piled together in a big box at the beginning of the day and brought to wherever we stopped to eat at lunch break. No refrigeration. I always made meat and cheese sandwiches, and in the summer sun the cheese got nice and melty…..those were the BEST SANDWICHES EVER!

  54. Here’s a novel idea: just teach the kid to recognize mold or sour milk/yogurt etc. That’ll catch most of the (hopefully) rare cases when the food you pack them goes bad. Sure on the beginning you will have some false alarms and overreactions in the beginning and yea they might even feign it when there’s something they just would rather not eat, but those things will all work themselves out over time.

    My kid’s school does us the favor of requiring all uneaten food to go back home so the parent can see and discuss if they choose to do so, which I think is quite reasonable.

  55. well it cant be that bad. Most schools in australia DO NOT have cafeteria’s and taking your own lunch is done by thousands if not millions of kids everyday here. We have a thing called Tuckshop where you can purchase some foods but we do not have sitting areas/eating areas indoors. Kids sit outside to eat home brought lunch everyday.

    That said, due to the high heat here – insulated/ lined lunchboxes are the norm and many people send a little freezer cube thing to keep lunches cool just during the couple of hot months. My kids have never had food poisoning etc. I send sandwiches, fruit, crackers and a treat in their lunchboxes and I dont even bother with the freezer thing most times.

  56. “I STILL leave my sandwiches out until lunch when I take them to work. Bread dries out in the frig.”

    Same. I don’t LIKE sandwiches with cold bread.

    I figure that most store bought lunch meats are so full of preservatives anyhow, that a few hours sitting in a brown bag ain’t doing much of anything bad to them.

  57. How long are pre-school kids in school before lunch?

    I mean, even in high school, the first lunch started at 10:30a (whenever I had this lunch, I skipped breakfast!). Each lunch started about 30 minutes after that and no one had lunch starting after noon or thereabouts. So, even then, it’s barely 5 hours from start of school, plus the time it takes the lunch to get from acceptable temperature to unacceptable (less if an ice pack is used– though in hot weather, we’d stick the juice boxes in the freezer, which kept the lunch cool and the juice was nice and slushy for lunch.)

    Fear sells. And this article will clearly get some parents all excited about how to “best” care for their kid. After all, the TV says it’s dangerous and the TV knows best!

  58. Haven’t sensible parents always avoided packing super-perishable foods? I wouldn’t eat sushi that had been sitting in a locker for 4 hours, and milk I’d sniff, but cheese, lunch meat, bread, carrot sticks, etc are generally fine unless it’s VERY hot. And peanut butter never spoils, so that’s a great solution. Except, oh yeah, PBJ was banned.

  59. All day school should already be happening, Gina, and i doubt its a school lunch conspiracy. Some schools are reducing the lunch staff for budget reasons.

  60. You’re my favorite public sociologist!

  61. I love the comparison to organ donations! Good one!

  62. To the poster who conflated unions with the Nanny State:

    Unions were formed in part because the Nanny State can rapidly metmorphose into The State that Bosses Can Whistle Up to Club You or Shoot You for Wanting Not to Work in a Deathtrap. Yes, that has happened right here in America. Yes, cops and soldiers, killing fellow Americans for not wanting to be treated as a consumable resource.

    In short, unions =/= government.

    Was it this blog that followed the money to figure out why school lunches are crappy? IIRC it’s because school lunch providers receive a flat amount per child from the federal government (to aid in making sure that kids don’t go to school with empty bellies) regardless of how much they spend on feeding each child. Hence soft gray grapes and unidentifiable “meat.” Hence kids lining up at the vending machine for food that is also crappy, but not in ways that actually make them gag.

  63. I think the bigger problem is when the kids drop their food on the floor that has been walked on by a million shoes and boots, but pick it up and eat it anyway… and then wipe up the crumbs with moist fingers and lick those up too!

  64. Lenore. Where have u been all my child rearing life. Saw the “scary” lunch story on NBC, just stood there dumbfounded…then I got your email. So I’m wasn’t the only one thinking “What madness!!”

  65. The other day I brought a sandwich to school with me, packed in a cooler with an ice pack, and left it in my car while I was in class. Well the inside of my car got so hot that even in the cooler with the ice pack, the cheese on my sandwich melted. I ate it anyway.

    I’m a disgrace.

  66. Jenny Islander– I don’t know if you’re thinking of Fed Up With School Lunch, (http://fedupwithlunch.com/) but the woman there looks/ looked at the issue of school lunch– even went so far as to EAT the stuff for a year. I don’t recall Lenore talking about that issue here, though.

  67. The only time that I had food poisioning it was from a school lunch. I was working as a substitute teacher, and it was the week after Thanksgiving. All week they had these awesome turkey salad sandwiches that I was buying for my lunch. Only on Friday, I thought to myself “Maybe I shouldn’t get this, it has been over a week since they cooked the turkey!” The lunch lady said that I got the “”last one!” Only, I got it anyhow and that night I was in the hospital so sick I couldn’t hardly think straight.

    The only time I have ever had sour milk with my lunch was when I bought the milk from the school.

  68. I attended Callahan St. Elementary School in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. At that time, several grades attended classes in un-airconditioned “bungalows”. In September the inside temperature would reach 105 degrees. Our sandwiches were well-warmed by the time we ate our lunches. I suppose it’s absolutely amazing that we ever survived September and lived until October … several times.

    In addition, the playground was black asphalt from fence to fence. Not a blade of grass to be seen. We had to keep running so the extreme heat fromt he black asphalt wouldn’t seatr the bottoms of our feet. There was one advantage, though. If we ever tripped and skinned our knee, the heat would instantly cauterize the wound, and we could keep on playing without a visit to the school nurse.

  69. Certainly, many foods (especially lunch foods) are resistant to quick spoilage. That’s why we pack them for lunch.

    And mayo isn’t the killer we assumed it was, either.

  70. When I first heard this report, my first thought was “if 98% of lunches aren’t within the acceptable temperature range, then perhaps the acceptable range needs to be expanded.” My kids bring turkey or ham sandwiches, yogurt, the occassional boiled egg, etc to school for their lunch and have never gotten sick. Nor has there been an epidemic of kids sick from their turkey sandwiches at our school or in our city that I’ve heard of. When I first heard the story, I immediately dismissed it but then as virtually every station/media (Today Show, local newspaper, nightly news) started copying the story, I just got annoyed. Lazy journalism for sure. And lousy “research.”

    And Lenore, you are right. It’s these little things that do add up to our society’s collective fear of life. So, thank you for what you do. I so appreciate you!

  71. Actually I thought this particular article was fairly well written and addressed the fact that no advice can be given based on this study, because there is not enough information (surprise!). We don’t know whether the rate of food-borne illness is higher in kids eating home lunches vs school lunches; we don’t know whether the temps were closer to the low end or the high end of their unsafe range (which would make a huge difference); we don’t know what kinds of foods were in there. We don’t even know what criteria they used to establish said unsafe range.

    So this study is one piece of information which, on its own, is useless. But that’s how research goes. You add up all the bits of information to arrive at something actually useful. Too bad the reporting of these things tends to jump to conclusions the researchers often didn’t intend.

    Interesting that the low end of their range was 40F. Our fridge is dying so we are paying close attention to its temperature; my husband, who is a health inspector, is happy up to 45F. He also classifies food according to risk: apple pie lives on the counter in our house, banana cream does not. Maybe the next study needs to focus on which lunch foods might need more careful packing!

  72. Oh my Lord, they tested yogurt and found Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus bacteria. In some cases they even found Lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus casei bacteria!!

    Well, yes. That’s what makes it yogurt!!!

    Just a couple of days ago I passed a book in the bookstore called ‘The horror story about what is REALLY in your food’ (or something like that). Intriguing title, but I passed it up because I’m already straining under the amount of books I own (my mantra used to be ‘one can never have too many books’, but I’ve rescinded that).
    I almost wish I bought it, though, because I would love to be able to tell you what kind of bacteria and moulds are needed, yes NEEDED, in food to make it taste good and make it digestible.

  73. A conversation I had with my mother reminded me of this topic. We were talking about how my great grandfather, from a wealthy family, fell in love with my great grandmother, poorer than poor, when they were just kids in school. He greatly admired the dignity with which she ate her meager lunch every day. Because she had the same lunch every day for years he could still name all the items 60 years later. Her lunch: soft boiled egg, a small slice of cheese, a small slice of bread and tea. She was born in 1906. Since schools in that town only recently got air-conditioning I think it’s safe to say her one-room school house with lunches left on the porch did not keep her lunch “safe” temperatures. With danger like that I can’t believe she lived long enough to graduate let alone know her great granddaughter!

  74. So sad. I believe it was in Lenore’s book that I finally found confirmation that mayonnaise actually RETARDS food spoilage. I lived in Berlin, Germany, years ago as a student, and was surprised and rather happy to note that they hardly refrigerate ANYTHING over there. Same in France. Eggs are kept on shelves. The leftover soup is left on the stovetop. Fruit certainly is not refrigerated. And yet they survive. Ever since I returned to North America, I’ve wondered what it is that we have up our collective butts about food and refrigerators. It’s like if something actually makes contact with the air, it’s going to rot and kill you instantly. What paranoia. Thankfully, there’s a movement afoot to re-introduce the pleasures of ‘rotting’ foods: the decomposition and fermentation processes that have for millennia been known to change and add delightful things to the taste of food. Fish sauce, sour cream, wind-dried lamb (I tried it in Iceland), kimchi, pickles, cheeses, and most alcohols are a product of food ‘rot’. And the latest studies I’ve read suggest that the probiotic characteristics of fermented foods can help digestion, improve metabolism, and even have cancer-fighting properties! Sheesh. It’s like we WANT to be unhealthy. FYI, refrigerating things like mushrooms and tomatoes actually kill what little taste is left in storebought produce. Keep ’em on a shelf!

  75. Wow, it didn’t even take ten posts before some wingnut came along to blame this all on the unions. Took me by surprise, I must confess. Impressive.

  76. At my kids’ school they don’t serve hot lunch (private school). Every child brings a lunch every day. They have microwaves available for the kids to zap leftovers. (Yes, even the first graders know how to use it! And without direct adult supervision!) In the 16 years that my husband has taught there I have heard of zero accounts of food too hot or not hot enough or food borne illness from a lunch brought from home. Nuts.

  77. What are the odds that someone with an interest in refridgeration might be behind the ‘research’ on this?

  78. I went to a school in Phoenix, AZ, that didn’t have an indoor lunch room much less fridges for our lunch. My lunch (in an insulated bag with ice pack) sitting in my outdoor, 100+ degree locker for a few hours, never once made me (or anyone else) sick.

    So now we’re being told to be scared of doing something that we’ve all been doing for generations regardless of the fact that no one has suffered ill effects…people are crazy, and I’m not buying it.

  79. I bring my lunch to work every day and do not refrigerate it.

    However, what annoys me about these stories is that the real issue is actually that our food supply is so dangerous that food has become more dangerous. If we buy products from local farms, with local growers and reasonable profit expectations then precautions are less needed. But since we all want $.99 ground beef and $2 deli ham the stuff is toxic and becomes more toxic if not treated carefully.

    The MSNBC story is to refrigerate the product, but it should say “look how horrible our food supply is, people have to refrigerate lunches because we have let these corporations make such shit and call it food. We should be calling for legislation to require real strict and enforceable regulation of the food industry. Or, if you prefer, an end to subsidies that encourage mega farms that grow unhealthy food.

  80. Eggs in Europe are processed differently than in the US and do not have to be refrigerated. US eggs MUST be refrigerated because of the “safety” procedures done to them to allow them to be bundled and shipped across the country. Certain Farmer’s Market eggs in the US do not have to be refrigerated. Your farmer can help guide you on this point.

    Yogurt from the store is very different than real fermented yogurt and while it is true that it is a way to preserve milk, yogurt in those little plastic containers does not have all the same bacteria which makes it safe at room temperature.

  81. Who paid for this research? As a taxpayer, I want my money back. And please don’t suggest further research. Food storage is common sense – or at least, it used to be, and should still be. Next they’ll do a “study” and conclude that it gets mysteriously colder in the winter and warmer in the summer – and that more research is needed to determine whether our kids ought to dress accordingly.

  82. And what about insulated lunchboxes? I mean, I understand that an icepack is useless in a brown bag but I had my lunches in insulated lunchboxes with an icepack all my life and my lunches maybe were not colder than 39 degrees, but it was still “cold”. 39 F is very cold for a lunch, I think it’s unrealistic to think that lunches must be colder than 39! A bet that a very high percentage of all US refrigerators are actually set at 40 degrees or higher! It’s also unrealistic to think that the lunches of all the kids must be put in fridges. The school will need like hundreds of fridges… silly… Oh I know! They will invent refrigerated lockers!

    And anyway putting the icepack on top and not on the bottom may help a little… just saying…

  83. Then the taxes will go up because we will have to buy more refrigerators for every school in order to accommodate all of the bagged lunches that now need to be refrigerated.

  84. I wrote about this study on The Lunch Tray when it first came out and readers went crazy! Seriously, like 55 comments and counting. (“Study Says Packed School Lunches Unsafe, Moms Yawn” bit.ly/nZFlqT) I think it was just one “danger” too many for parents to take seriously, and rightly so.

    Meanwhile, I read with interest your story about your son going on the subway a while back, but didn’t realize you have a blog (or a book). Consider me a new subscriber — I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve shocked by, e.g., letting my nine year old ride his bike around our neighborhood for half an hour, or letting my eleven year old go on a walk unchaperoned. I’m sure compared to many Free Range parents here, I’m still quite a wimp, but given the prevailing ethos, I’m a reckless, even negligent parent to many people I know.

  85. As a young adult I took a food safety course required by the restaurant I was working in at the time. I leanred about safe food temperatures and immediately became concerned (paranoid) about my own food.
    When a few months later I was visiting relatives in Lithuania, my aunt packed a sandwich for me to take on a 5 hour train trip. I ate half of it in the first hour, and by the time I got to the second half, I was concerned that it had not been refrigerated in several hours. Disappointed and hungy, I tossed into a waste basket on the train. My aunt must have seen me do this, because she pulled it out of the trash and proceeded to scold me loudly, What was I thinking, wasting food like that?!
    Later, I would find that the Lithuanian relatives would sometimes leave cheese, even boiled eggs on the dining table at dinner time and dig into them again for breakfast the next morning. I dug in with them, afraid now of being impolite. I never got sick and neither did they.

  86. If my kids’ school starts complaining about this, I am homeschooling. This is just ridiculous.

  87. I think we forget that the ENTIRE purpose of cheese (and butter and yogurt) was to make milk last longer without refridgeration!

    Same with smoked meats. And I KNOW that veggies – especially root veggies (like carrots) – were kept without refridgeration for months in “cold storage” because we had a cold room when I was growing up, and we had huge open bins of the falls harvest that we ate all winter. So I’m betting that a few hours in a locker won’t be a problem.

    I agree with Ali. “1st world problem” indeed!

  88. Some of the commenters on here are just as paranoid as the worst helicopter parent. It’s just a silly news story, not a union conspiracy or the first step in a slippery slope to mandatory state-run boarding schools. Everyone needs to get a grip!

  89. I don’t think it would kill any parent to buy an insulated carrying pack for their kids’ lunch and throw in a frozen cold pack when they leave for school in the morning. I don’t buy the notion that kids aren’t getting sick; studies show that routine stomach aches and intestinal disturbances are caused by food borne illnesses, most of which can be prevented. Rather than rail against science, why not embrace it and use it to live more healthy lives?

  90. […] Anyway, all of this fancy packaging will be for naught, since (as Jesse Walker noted in today's Morning Links) 90 percent of the nation's children will soon be dead from lukewarm lunches. […]

  91. I almost laughed my ass of when saw the commercial for the “pack it” on tv. “now you can pack lunchmeat, fresh fruit, & yogurt” like everyone inthe world hadn’t been already.

  92. My kids bring their lunches in an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack. Having done food safety training makes me a little more anal about keeping foods at proper temperatures but I’m sure it’s overkill.

  93. @ Dave Simpson
    I agree with you. Unfortunately, though, the cold packs in the insulated bags do not effectively keep the food at a safe temperature.


  94. Many of the reactions to the report illustrate the hazard of too many warnings: people eventually reject all of them, including those that are useful.

    In this case the risk is real and substantial. It should be taken seriously. That the media and consumer groups whip up phony scares in 99 cases does not mean that the 100th case is not legit. I agree that there are far too many unfounded health scares, and I’ve written and worked for years in organizations that debunk them. In 1990 (I think it was), The New York Daily News ran a full-page opinion piece of mine focusing on unjustified scaremongering about risks.

    Many of responses in this thread are like the old man who says, “I’ve smoked since I was a kid and I ain’t got no lung cancer.” That he has been spared does not mean that hundreds of thousand of people are not still dying ever year in the U.S. from smoking. Anecdotes do not replace science.

  95. Nicolas, I think the difference between the old smoking man and the kids with their lunches is that most everybody knows someone who has suffered ill effects from smoking – emphysema, cancer, heart attack etc. (I know at least three people that have suffered from at least one of the above, and that’s just in my immediate family) But I don’t know ANYONE who ever got food poisoning from not refrigerating their lunch.

  96. Seriously?? They will think of anything to stop parents from packing lunch for their kids. The truth is almost anything brought from home that sits in a locker all day is much healthier than what they serve in the cafeterias.

  97. I still want to know who I can sue when lack of exposure cause my kids to because sick from an impotent immune system. Considering the superbugs created by too sterile environments and too many antibiotics, and the weak immune systems from the same causes, measures beyond common sense pose as much, if not more, danger than a lunch box with an ice pack not being quite cold enough poses.

  98. My 12yr old Daughter was reading this article and all of the comments made on it. Her response was ” Mum? why are adults so dumb? Bacteria is everywhere and hey! don’t forget the kids that use the 5 second rule when they drop food, I’ve never gotten sick from my lunches you send..sheesh. Some adults are so silly next they’ll be saying I can’t do anything when I’m grown up because it will all be bad for us.” Unfortunately that seems to be where we are headed and thats such a shame!

  99. I don’t think it would kill any parent to buy an insulated carrying pack for their kids’ lunch and throw in a frozen cold pack when they leave for school in the morning.

    Insulated carrying packs are soft. Which means that the food either gets squished OR the containers get destroyed. Or both.

  100. Refrigerating lunch? The best kind of lunch is the kind you can leave on the dashboard of the truck and eat warm! And then there are the days when lunch is away from the handy dandy vehicle/oven. I’ve seen metal clip boards set up like mini solar ovens in the hopes that they will help warm up those left overs.


    I have a question: for things like kimchi that are traditionally fermented at room temperature, do they have to process it differently to serve it at a restaurant/ sell it in a store?

  101. […] Anyway, all of this fancy packaging will be for naught, since (as Jesse Walker noted in today’s Morning Links) 90 percent of the nation’s children will soon be dead from lukewarm lunches. […]

  102. @Kawaii Most fermented products sold in stores and restaurants is pasteurized (thus pointless beyond flavor). At least the ones I have come across are. There are some rare ones available online or occasionally in health/specialty retail stores or the even more rare restaurant.

  103. @Kawaii My earlier response applies only to the US. I don’t know what is normal elsewhere in the world.

  104. Bob already stated what my thoughts were. A few months ago a school in Chicago banned lunches brought from home b/c the company who made the lunches in the cafeteria needed more money, so the school deemed bag lunches as “unhealthy” and even tried to link the ban to Michelle Obama’s obesity campaign. If the day ever comes where my son’s school bans home made lunches, I will home school him.

  105. Jen, the school had had that policy in place for over a decade when it first hit the news. And I don’t know that it ever was confirmed that the “real reason” was because of kickbacks and all. A lot of people made that assumption, and it’s a good one, but I don’t know if it’s the truth.

  106. I would like to see a study done of kids who had stomach issues AFTER lunch. When they prove a link to the lunches that kids brought from home (rather than got at school) then I will change how we do our lunches for our outings. I suspect that a survey of school nurses would find that most of the stomach illnesses that kids have appear in the morning. Not after lunch, and those that do come after lunch, I bet it is in the same percentages as the percents of kids who eat school lunch over home lunch.

    NPR ran this “story” this morning. They did point out that none of the kids got sick “that day.” And went on with how people need to wipe down the counter and use hand sanitizer. Oh, and after the hand sanitizer bit (using it in the school room too) they said that studies have shown that hand sanitizer is only effective in curbing stomach issues, not the common cold. Hmm.

  107. This fear is already sweeping through parenting sites I frequent. Parents are freaking out wondering how they can keep their kids’ lunchboxes at refrigerator temperatures, wondering what is safe to send (basically nothing) and starting campaigns to demand refrigerators in classrooms geesh.

    I know I survived eating bologna and cheese sandwiches every day in school. It sat in the class coatroom from 8am until we ate around 11am. Yeah, the cheese would be a little melted by lunch in the warmer months but it didn’t kill me.

    My kids start back to school tomorrow and usually get their lunch at school thanks to the free/reduced lunch program. Not sure if their accounts carry over to the new years so they are all taking their lunches in the morning just to be sure. They pack their own and are already deciding on sandwich choices (basically ham/turkey & cheese or PB&J) with pudding or a gogurt and some crackers of some sort. They sometimes freeze the gogurts but not always.

    They pack it all and stick it in the fridge over night. They’ve always done it that way and not a single one of them has ever gotten sick from eating warm yogurt. It doesn’t bother them.

  108. Warm lunches build character!!!!!!!

  109. Dude there are so many nifty containers and ice packs and whatnots to put in your child’s lunch now that I really don’t think this is an issue. I am probably going to buy the LL Bean insulated lunch bags to match my boys LL Bean backpacks to take to kindergarten next year for lunch.

    We picnic a lot and because my son has food allergies and my kids are picky and to save money and eat healthier I am very used to packing lunches for my kids and taking them with us. Do it every week. Never had a problem whatsoever.

  110. I am with the other posters that if they ban homemade lunches, then I am homeschooling. I don’t trust the kitchen to not contaminate and make my son a safe lunch for his peanut allergy. I have no problem making him a lunch everyday. I think my food is probably healthier than what I see kids eating at school too most of the time.

  111. I’m saddened of late to see a lot of anti-science blogging and commenting here. The story as reported by MSNBC, where Lenore linked, includes right at the top the fact that “that doesn’t mean kids are actually getting sick,” and quotes several skeptical parents. My understanding and implementation of Free-Range Parenting is based on critical thinking – understanding the risks and rewards of different choices and then acting intelligently. We know a lot more about food safety than we used to, and making smart choices in light of that knowledge strikes me as smart parenting. To cite another recent example – we know a lot more about infant brain injury than we used to, and so understanding the risk-reward issue of transporting an infant on or behind a bike or in certain types of strollers is a different scenario than it used to be.

    Making criticially evaluated decisions may mean packing lunches with ingredients less likely to grow dangerous bacteria in the short period that lunches go unrefrigerated, or using a trailer with a suspension instead of a bike seat, or it may mean that the benefits of packing a lunch or getting exercise with your children outweigh the risks for you. But the accusations that Lenore and some other commenters have made about this article just aren’t borne out when you read it – nothing suggests that an ice pack is “apparently useless,” it just doesn’t actually keep a lunch from reaching bacteria-growing temps until meal time.

    Some of Lenore’s Free-Range advocacy that I find most compelling is the data-driven stuff about crime. Critical thinking when observing data is an important skill, and hysteria rarely is. It’s unfortunate that there seems to be more knee-jerk reaction, and less critical thinking on this blog than there used to be. At the very least, there needs to be a much clearer line than has been the case about criticizing the presentation of studies and data by mainstream media, and the studies themselves.

  112. The chances that food that was washed at home, prepared on a scrubbed counter, packed in newly opened bags or clean reusable containers inside a lunchbox that is also cleaned regularly, and left for a few hours inside the unopened box will make a child sick are too low to worry about.

    Food that is left open at room temp or handled by a lot of different people shortly before one person eats it or prepared on a sticky counter using dirty tools–that’s different. But your average homemade lunch is quite safe. The bacteria that cause stomach ailments have to come from someplace–they don’t spontaneously generate inside an uncracked hard-cooked egg!

  113. Jenny, do you have some data to support your claims? You assume that the bacteria are not in the food but are obtained from “a sticky counter using dirty tools” Evidence?

    You claim that food washed at him is safe, by which I presume that you mean bacteria are washed off. Do you have evidence to support this? I offer you some evidence to the contrary:


    “If you’ve got bacteria on the surface of fruits and vegetables, and you give them a wash with cold water, it removes some of what’s on the surface,” said Brendan Niemira of the USDA’s Microbial Food Safety Unit in Pennsylvania. “Unfortunately, it [cold water rinsing] doesn’t remove all of them, and that’s a problem. If things are well-attached or living in a tight-knit community called a biofilm, that’s going to be hard to get rid of.”

    “Most bacteria can’t be washed off,” agreed Doug Powell, associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University. And although it happens rarely, bacteria in soil can also be taken up by the roots of plants and remain inside the plant’s veins, where they would be impossible to remove by washing.

  114. @ Thomas Taylor
    Lenore’s contributions are invaluable, and I appreciate her joyful contrarianism. In this case I think she has got it wrong, and others unthinkingly fall in line.

  115. When I visit Guatemala, Mexico, or Thailand, some natives think it a bit silly for me to refuse to drink tap water. After all, they do it and they survive, for the most part. But Montezuma’s Revenge is no myth, and it is caused by waterborne bacteria. To use one example, fully 80 percent of Burmese refugees to the U.S. are infected with the bacterium H. pylori, which can cause cancer.

    Most people are very unlikely to recognize foodborne illnesses with which they have been infected, and therefore think they have never been infected. Also, the misconception is afoot that foodborne illness presents itself shortly after the contaminated food is eaten. This is often not true. Some foodborne bacterial infections can take several days to cause illness, and by that time it is difficult to connect it to that warm yogurt eaten three days ago.

  116. Funny. So true. So sad.

  117. Yeah, mayonnaise gets a bum rap. The problems with mayonnaise are two-fold:

    1. It’s often mixed with things that CAN go bad, like tuna and

    2. It does separate and get icky (but not dangerous) if left to get warm.

    The mayonnaise itself is actually not the problem, it’s just associated with things that can be.

  118. I have to wonder if the “study” authors have ever been on a picnic or gone to a cook-out party? I am willing to bet that the fruit salad and chips and salsa have been sitting there for a few hours! My kids are toddlers, and do not have to deal with cafeteria lunches yet, so hopefully things will revert to “normal”? by the time they get to school. One can only hope!

    In response to bob: union-driven??? really? As a union member (surgical nurse), I have to question is this the proper forum to inject your venom? I thought the post was supposed to center around lunches…

  119. @Nicolas Martin Others must “unthinkingly fall in line” because it’s impossible that they might *gasp* agree with her on this issue.

  120. Heather, I don’t doubt that they agree, but not a single one of those in the Amen Chorus has cited any scientific data. A lot of umbrage, ridicule, fallacies, and superstition, but no science. I have provided info from researchers and the CDC, but it has elicited no interest from the cheerleaders.

  121. Based on the visible result of the way most Americans feed their children, it is obvious that they not only don’t worry about foodborne illness, they aren’t concerned about gross obesity.

    Pity the kids.

  122. Nicolas, the CDC’s own data often contradicts it’s recommendations. It takes about six months to comb through all of their data to weed out bias and assumptions to get to hard data for analysis. I’ve done the work on other issues and don’t have that kind of time, caring for my family and all. What I can tell you is that this story was picked up by several media outlets and used to frighten parents just in time to pack school lunches. The study and/or reporting of it failed to follow up with the children to determine if any harm was done, nor did it actually test for pathogenic bacteria. It also failed to distinguish between benign and pathogenic bacteria.

    Until good quality studies are done on people who aren’t sick there really isn’t anything those who feel this study and it’s coverage were ridiculous don’t have anything to point you to. Honestly the study itself, barring a mass outbreak of food born illness in the schools studied, rather exonerates the sack lunches but the definition of “unsafe” (by the researchers) shows a bias towards unnecessary fear.

  123. Heather, you provided no example of the CDC’s contradictions. In this case we don’t have to rely of the CDC since there have been decades of studies done documenting the hazards of foodborne toxins. There is no controversy about the huge number of estimated cases of food poisoning, and nobody in this thread has quoted any researcher to defend the view that the risks of foodborne illnesses are overstated. Harmful bacteria in foods are easily found, and no advances in research are needed to substantiate their risks.

    At the site of the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse you will find this:

    Harmful bacteria are the most common cause of foodborne illnesses. Some bacteria may be present on foods when you purchase them. Raw foods are the most common source of foodborne illnesses because they are not sterile; examples include raw meat and poultry that may have become contaminated during slaughter. Seafood may become contaminated during harvest or through processing. One in 10,000 eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella inside the egg shell. Produce such as spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, and melons can become contaminated with Salmonella, Shigella, or Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7. Contamination can occur during growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping, or final preparation. Sources of produce contamination are varied as these foods are grown in soil and can become contaminated during growth or through processing and distribution. Contamination may also occur during food preparation in a restaurant or a home kitchen. The most common form of contamination from handled foods is the calcivirus, also called the Norwalk-like virus.

    When food is cooked and left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature, bacteria can multiply quickly. Most bacteria grow undetected because they don’t produce a bad odor or change the color or texture of the food. Freezing food slows or stops bacteria’s growth but does not destroy the bacteria. The microbes can become reactivated when the food is thawed. Refrigeration also can slow the growth of some bacteria. Thorough cooking is needed to destroy the bacteria.


    There is a simple and safe way to dramatically reduce foodborne illness: irradiation. Unfortunately, irrational fear of radiation inhibits its widespread use, thereby causing thousands of unnecessary deaths.

  124. “I have to wonder if the “study” authors have ever been on a picnic or gone to a cook-out party? I am willing to bet that the fruit salad and chips and salsa have been sitting there for a few hours! ”

    Evidently wherever you live, osujedimom, you aren’t treated to the annual (at least) “it’s summer, be very afraid” newspaper article about how basically you can’t have anything good to eat at a cookout, because everything has to either be non-perishable or stay in the refrigerator until two seconds before people eat it and be snatched out from under people’s noses in the buffet line to make sure it doesn’t stay out there two seconds longer than it should. No going back for seconds!

  125. Let’s cut to the chase Nicolas — I’m not disputing the information you’ve given, but what about the implied conclusions? How many of those “thousands of deaths” involved children eating a sack lunch prepared at home? THAT’s what’s relevant here, not the existence of bacteria and the reality of foodborne illness.

    If anyone’s mocking the idea of bacteria existing in or on food in sack lunches, that’s wrong. But it’s not “anti-science” to use our own powers of observation to notice that there’s no rash of children becoming seriously ill and/or dying as a result of sack lunches, either in our own observed circles, or in the media. Maybe assessing the risk factor posed by the data is not the same as just looking at the data?

  126. Some posters sneeringly point to countries without ready refrigeration and seem dubious that it is a big problem.

    According to the World Health Organization, about 1.8 million people died worldwide in 2005 due to foodborne illnesses.


    It is foolhardy not to use the means we have to protect ourselves from significant causes of disease and death. It will come as a frightful shock to some here that I also have my daughter wear a bike helmet, even thought she is more likely to die from food poisoning than from a bike accident.

  127. Heather – I appreciate your comments and expertise greater than mine on the science here. I think, though, that people are imparting import and intent to the study that’s not really there. They measured whether or not these kids’ lunches stayed at a temperature that has previously been shown to inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria, and found that for the most part, they do not. That’s it, and anything else is conjecture and interpretation; the researchers themselves call for actual epidemiological research. I think that the MSNBC story does a very good job of highlighting the limited real-world impact of these specific findings, and am not sure why it got singled out here.

    And back to my risk/reward or cost/benefit point – what’s the cost of doing this differently, vs. the benefit? The study population was preschoolers, who are a) much more susceptible to food-borne pathogens, and b) almost all dropped off by adult caregivers, so all the hand-wringing about kids having to carry coolers with ice packs is not relevant here. The one key take away for me is “insulated lunchboxes that are stored in a fridge at school probably do more harm than good,” which is an easy thing to fix.

  128. Pentamom, humans use science because our “powers of observation” are unreliable.

    As I have noted, few people are equipped to recognize food poisoning. This is reflected in the fact that there are 48 million cases of food poisoning in America each year, affecting 1-in-6 Americans, yet not one skeptic in this forum thinks he knows anyone who has been so infected. So much for powers of observation.

  129. I’m not “unthinkingly falling in line.” I’m thinking back and remembering the thousands of balogna-and-miracle-whip sandwiches that I packed in a brown paper bag, stored in the coat closet, and ate 4 hours later. I was almost never sick, and when I was, it was the flu, not food poisoning. For pete’s sake. There should be uproar about the crap the schools serve and call lunches. Not some ridiculous standard that nobody in the world ever followed nor needs to follow.

    Dolly, so what if there are products on the market that I could waste my money on? Just because someone is out there selling something does not mean that should become the standard based on fearmongering.

    As for the study being “scientifically correct,” my questions are, why did they do the study, what does it tell us that we don’t ALREADY KNOW, and why are they reporting it to the non-scientific community like it’s big news? And what idiot is spending money for research that has absolutely no practical value?

  130. Nicolas: Sure many kids in America are obese, but I take offense that you said “most”. I can assure you my kids are NOT obese or even overweight. One is 50% percentile on weight and the other is off the charts on weight but also on height so there is not a weight problem. Actually I am scanning all the kids I know in my brain right now and actually I think I know more underweight or small for their size kids than overweight kids. I think I might know like one overweight kid.

    So it is true that obesity in America in kids is on the rise and it does exist, but by NO means is it all over. I even live in the US South where most of us are overweight and I still don’t personally know any overweight kids. I have seen some in passing in public, but I see many more that are NOT overweight than I see overweight.

  131. I just figured it out. They have decided that farting is food poisoning.

  132. @ SKL

    “Whether it is the stomach flu or food poisoning, you are most likely miserable. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two illnesses, as both bring on vomiting, diarrhea, chills, dizzyness and dehydration.” http://liten.be//jTi7D

    How is it that you know you had “the flu, not food poisoning”?

    If personal experience were a good guide, we would have no need for science, but it was recognized long ago that it is a poor guide.

    Food poisoning is a significant cause of illness and death in America. I think this small study is useful.

  133. SKL: Where did I say anyone had to buy them? I said that there are tons of nifty products out there that if you are worried you can buy them and it solves the problem easy peasy. I have some cute crayola crayon insulated containers I got at Walmart in the back to school section. They would be great for putting fruit in. I have ice packs that are reusable. I have insulated lunch boxes and bags. I have cute little sandwich containers that are reusable and keep a sandwich from getting smooshed.

    The point is that for all the fear mongering about food spoiling there are tons of products on the market that can probably help with that. So the people who are concerned can buy the products. No reason to start making kids buy lunch at school or for everyone to start freaking out. I think the reusable containers are probably more environmental too instead of using throw away bags everyday. Especially if you hold onto the containers a long time. I am still using two sandwich containers that I bought for hubby to take to work about 6 years ago.

  134. The only time in my life that I personally had food poisoning was not from picnic food. It was from restaurant food.

  135. Earlier, I sent a query to the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline (this is the outfit that is the source of the study’s claim that unrefrigerated food is unsafe after two hours and should be thrown out), and just received this reply:

    “Thank you for writing the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline.

    Perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, and dairy products must be kept refrigerated, or at cold temperatures, for safety.

    Other foods, such as bread, potato chips, peanut butter, raisins, granola, onions, garlic bulbs, carrot sticks and uncooked dried pasta do not require refrigeration for safety.

    In our publication about packing lunches (http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Keeping_Bag_Lunches_Safe/index.asp
    ) we differentiate between perishable and non-perishable lunch items. We even list non-perishable foods that don’t need a cold source to keep them safe.

    Of course, most people don’t pack two separate lunch boxes, one for perishable and one for items that don’t require refrigeration. If you refrigerate your lunch the night before, even the shelf stable items will be chilled and, along with the cold source, will help keep the perishable items cold.

    I hope this helps.”

    The linked fact sheet on packing bag lunches seems to me to be reasonable – maybe some people might think it’s too nitpicky, but it’s definitely not recommending transporting lunches like donated organs.

    And crucially, it does what the study does not: it distinguishes perishable from non-perishable foods and is clear that it is perishable foods that are particularly temperature sensitive when it comes to safety. Processed luncheon meats are considered perishable – probably rightly, even though I, like many here, grew up eating room temperature bologna sandwiches and lived. I don’t know how many of my ‘stomach flus’ were actually food poisoning or what caused it.

    While I still maintain that this particular study has too many holes and flaws to be very useful, I think research into the sources, causes, and possible prevention of foodborne illnesses is generally worthwhile and should be taken seriously. Unfortunately, it seems that at least some of the reporting on this study is rank fear-mongering and not any kind of real evaluation of the study or the risk it describes.

    I agree with Nicolas Martin, though, some of the hysterical, know-nothing reactions in this comment section are at least as wrong-headed. All that ‘just common sense’ food handling stuff that everybody knows came from research like this – there was a time when lots of kids were infected with parasites, and suffered and died from foodborne illnesses resulting from improper food preparation and storage. They didn’t all live, and they definitely didn’t all grow up without damage from it.

  136. Also, SKL, those sandwiches were presumably in elementary school and later, while the study specifically measured the lunches of pre-school children, because they do have a higher incidence of food-borne illnesses, due to their still-developing immune systems. The growth of full-day, out-of-the-home childcare is a relatively recent phenomenon, and studying the health effects is a reasonable effort, I believe. What is lost by working to reduce the incidence of food borne illness in preschoolers? Yes, as evidenced by some of the reporting on this study, there is some mis-use of the results to feed the helicoptering, danger-is-everywhere environment that all of us as Free-Range parents must always be vigilant against. But I would like to see a more specific targeting of that problem, rather than the “Eh, I lived through childhood, so will my kid” attitude that seems so prevalent here.

  137. BTW, according to the CDC,

    Underweight is defined as weight-for-length < 5th percentile based on the CDC gender-specific weight-for-length reference for children less than 2 years of age and Body Mass Index (BMI )-for-age < 5th percentile for children 2 to 20 years of age based on the CDC gender-specific BMI-for-age reference (CDC, 2000).


    Dolly, do you really believe that you know a lot of kids who are below the fifth percentile in weight-for-length? I very much doubt it. More likely your own perception of normal weight is higher than that of these perfectly healthy kids.

  138. Beth – thanks for that additional research. Please note that the full study is available from the Pediatrics journal website, and it is just straight up false to say that the study does not distinguish perishable from non-perishable foods.

    The study: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/08/04/peds.2010-2885.full.pdf+html

  139. Less than 3/100 of 1 percent of the world’s population dies of food born illness. That includes populations that drink water collected feet away from where animals (and people) have defecated or died. It is *estimated* 1 in 6 Americans get food poisoning. The CDC admits that it is difficult to assess and estimates the numbers. The flaws in the study itself have already been pointed out.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I refuse to live in a world where illness is so terrifying that I avoid any and all germs. There are hundreds of bacteria that our bodies depend on for proper functioning. Some are even subspecies in the same families as pathogenic bacteria. There is also a plethora of bacteria that is benign to healthy humans. To avoid any possible contact with these because of a rather *small* chance of becoming seriously ill sets us up for bigger problems down the road. Some of which are felt now the form of drug and chemical resistant bacteria and viruses as well as increases in chronic weakened immune function.

  140. Heather – thanks for another thoughtful comment. I agree about bacteria hysteria, and I have to confess that I didn’t think as much as a should have about how this study feeds into that phenomenon, which is certainly part of the overall “the world is a dangerous place, and we must always live to minimize all dangers” mindset that Free-Rangers are trying to counter. I think, in this case, which focuses on young children, that there’s a fine line between obsession with eliminating all risk and understanding the risks that do exist. Especially with the insulated lunch box and ice-pack part of the study, where parents are taking steps that they think are helpful, but turn out to be not as helpful as thought, or perhaps even counter productive (eg,uncooled food placed in a fridge inside of a thermal container that prevents it from benefiting from the refrigeration). What I strive for, and was citing a lack of, is critical thinking beyond “well, it was good enough for me as a kid.” While we may come to different conclusions, I appreciate the critical thinking evident in your comments.

  141. I think that the main point to make is that you’re not doing yourself any favors by living in fear about what your children are eating. You simply have to make the best choice, and then move on. If you feel that home lunch is healthiest, then don’t spend your day fretting about bacteria. Packing a child’s lunch in a cooler with ice in order to transport it to the refrigerator isn’t practical for most people, and you can’t protect your children against every possible illness, danger, and evil, even if you buy high-end lunch containers and make lists of healthy foods in the middle of the night. And I don’t really think that crying out against school lunches is helpful, either. I listened to my brother- and sister-in-law RAGE against the school lunches offered to their 6-year-old. I suggested that they pack a lunch instead, but they had plenty of reasons why they don’t want to do that. They’re also against the government putting more money into school programs and higher-quality lunches. Eventually, something has to give. School lunch isn’t a mass murderer, and room temperature cheese is not a death trap. Your child will LICK the floor and live to brag about it.

  142. Justmaegan, I have to say, your brother and sister-in-law seem to be a little… well, I guess I don’t have to say it, it’s not very nice. Still, pick a side and stick with it!

    Really off-topic this time (moreso than usual), we have new kittens and I feel compelled to share the cuteness. No pictures, but you can take my word for it that they are A DOR A BLE. (And yes, mama cat is going to be fixed as soon as the babies wean… which is when they’ll be fixed too. She came to us just last month, already pregnant.)

  143. Thomas Taylor – thank you for the correction. You are right, the study does distinguish perishable foods. When I looked at the original report before, I was focusing on the definition of ‘unsafe’ given near the beginning, and I was questioning that in particular–where it is claimed, without distinguishing type of food, that foods in the unsafe temperature range should be thrown out after two hours (max). This recommendation is from a USDA fact sheet, which was cited in the report and which was the basis of my question to the USDA. Elsewhere in the report there is a focus on the temperatures of perishable foods and a recognition that these are more likely to cause foodborne illness. I still find that the report lends itself to the interpretation that all food may be considered unsafe to some degree if it is in the temperature ‘danger zone’, and this is not the case.

  144. Probably one of the dumbest things I ever saw (as far as lunches go) was the preschool that put kids lunches in the fridge IN the insulated lunch bags…

  145. Heather, it’s hard to imagine why you would bother to use a refrigerator at home. Just face down those pathogenic bacteria, keeping in mind that their close relations present no hazard. Some bacteria are essential for life, and others are deadly. Some mushrooms are tasty and others are deadly. It can be quite useful to distinguish between the former and the latter.

    Only 1/10,000th of the world’s population dies of malaria each year, so I guess we can put that hysteria to rest, too.

    Yes, the CDC numbers are estimates. And they might well be underestimates.

  146. ““Most bacteria can’t be washed off,” agreed Doug Powell, associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University. And although it happens rarely, bacteria in soil can also be taken up by the roots of plants and remain inside the plant’s veins, where they would be impossible to remove by washing”

    So what do you suggest we do against that Nicolas? Not eating any raw food? Sorry but I won’t deprive myself and my family from eating a healthy diet just because there is a tiny tiny chance that raw vegetables or fruits can be contaminated.

    If we worry about all and everything, we will simply stop eating and drinking… it’s silly.

  147. Nicolas, since you brought it up, what extraordinary precautions do you take against malaria?

    Thomas, the conversation has been a pleasure.

  148. “How is it that you know you had “the flu, not food poisoning”?”

    Coughing, aching, stuffy nose, sneezing, fever = flu

    Stomach upset, puking = maybe food poisoning (or a virus).

    And, no, I am not unthinkingly following Lenore (although I do like the implication that disagreement with you is because the person is being “unthinking” and not simply that s/he has a differing opinion.) I don’t actually think this information – that bag lunches are not has cold as they optimally should be when eaten – is good to know. I am just opposed to the reporting of this study as some late-breaking news and worry that we all should have.

    I’m not going to spend a lot of time solving problems that don’t exist in my life. Since my daughter is not actually getting sick from her school lunches, I’m not going to worry about studies that say that maybe she should be and come up with ways to avoid her getting sick from her school lunches. If she does begin to develop an unusual amount of stomach upsets – up from her current level of exactly zero in almost 6 years of life – I’ll consider altering her lunch plans. Until then, we’re good.

    But, if someone does have a child who seems to have frequent stomach upset, they may want to consider their child’s school lunches.

  149. Nicolas: The kids are perfectly healthy at least most of them, but yes, I do know a lot of super super tiny kids. I was one of them. One little girl I know just turned 9 and last year she was wearing a 5T because her waist was so small. I know a little baby boy who had to had a feeding tube put down his throat because he was failing to thrive. I know a lot of multiples and since most of them were premature, they tend to be on the small side a lot. I also just know a lot of super tiny little girls that had thin mothers and they are thin too. They are healthy but no where NEAR overweight and that was the point I was trying to make to you since you seem to think all US kids are fat and that is certainly not true.

  150. Nicholas Martin, it seems to me (and forgive me for jumping in) that the talk of ‘deadly’ bacteria is a little much. Looking at the numbers for U.S. deaths by foodborne illness, I note that the low end of the (very broadly!) estimated numbers would put it at about 284 per annum. The U.S. has a population of more than 300 million, which puts your risk of dying from foodborne illness in any given year into the statistical realm known as “De Minimis”, which really means “not large enough to mention; statistically equivalent to zero risk”. The CDC website also mentions that death from such causes happens most frequently among the “very old, very young, those who have an illness already that reduces their immune system function, and in healthy people exposed to a very high dose of an organism”. On average, about 50-70 people die per year of lightning strikes in the U.S., and more than 24 000 are killed worldwide. I’m sure those people’s families are not happy about it, but it doesn’t mean much for the rest of us: beyond basic awareness, there’s nothing much for us to do.

    It’s impossible to reach zero risk (though studies here in Canada suggest that people think it is achievable). It’s just a matter of judging risk effectively and getting on with life: nobody would suggest that death from food is impossible: it’s just so improbable that it’s not worth worrying about without some compelling immediate cause.

    On the egg front: The Egg Safety Center says that 1 egg in 20,000 may contain salmonella, which is a contamination rate of 0.005 percent. That is to say, zero. De minimis.

  151. Nicolas Martin, here’s some brilliant science for you. I had three siblings close in age. Once a year (usually in February), we all simultaneously developed fevers and puked for a day. If it were my sandwich (my siblings mostly ate pb&j), it would not have spread to my siblings or vice-versa. And also, it would have happened in the warm months and a lot more than once a year. And furthermore, humans are born with the ability to notice patterns, including figuring out that certain actions / foods create certain effects. (Beans, anyone?)

    But just for the sake of argument, so what if it was “food poisoning,” so long as we all got over it quickly and it was no big deal?

    It’s like I said – next you’ll be saying gas is indicative of a public health threat. Are you looking for perfection here on earth? It’s a waste of time at best. Even if you manage to reduce illness, you won’t reduce discomfort and unhappiness, because people will just be that much more peevish about littler things. (What do I mean, “will be”?)

  152. I knew I’d get the “we need science because personal observation is unreliable.”

    Well, I didn’t mean just personal observation. I mean the fact that if people were dropping like flies due to foodborne illness at the rates that would be implied if the information about bacteria in this article were something to be concerned about, we would have “observed” it in the media, or somewhere.

    As SKL said, if it’s such a mild illness that we miss it most of the time for what it is, what are we even worrying about? Obviously you take basic precautions on food safety, but there’s no practical evidence that the bacterial counts being discovered *actually affect public health to a significant degree.*

  153. @Nicolas Martin awesome job! You are spot on!!most of the posters know you’re right but will NEVER admit it and @ SKL….”so what if it was “food poisoning,” so long as we all got over it quickly and it was no big deal?”….really?

  154. So why are we all so fired up that we have a study that tells us that lunches, even in insulated bags with an icepack, aren’t really refrigerated? I for one am happy to know that. It’s just information. Not enough information on its own, but just information.

    Just for the record, pentamom, we are “observing” food-borne illness in the media. Salmonella in eggs? E coli in hamburger (that one is real, and scary, too)? All that advertising for products to disinfect the kitchen? Sadly, all this observing has led to lots of overuse of antibiotics and bacteriostatic cleaning products…hence the problem of virulent organisms and antibiotic resistance. SKL, most of the time food poisoning IS mild. Sometimes, though, it’s not. And kids are more at risk of complications than adults are. Do many cases of nasty illness come from school lunches? Dunno. That study hasn’t been done yet.

    If we have a quibble about fear-mongering here it’s the reporting of pretty much all health- or medical- research in the media. Jumping to conclusions is not good science. Nor is making recommendations based on a single study, which may not — as in this case — actually have studied outcomes. And neither is denying that any risk exists “because it’s never happened to anyone I know”.

    So I will continue to pack the perishables right next to the ice pack where they will stay the coolest the longest. Not exactly a huge imposition.

  155. When my 6-year-old got home from school today, I noticed he had not eaten his cheese stick and it was still in his lunchbox (without even an ice pack!). My toddler wanted it. It was quite warm and limp, but the toddler ate it up, and he’s fine. I rather think that protecting kids from warm, limp lunches makes them, in the end, more susceptible to food poisoning, the way protecting them from everyday germs actually weakens their immune systems.

    Anyway, this is a great post. Thanks for all you do.

  156. […] parents and the “safety” of our government parents: thanks to parental negligence, kids bring “unsafe” lunches to school that are ripe for bacteria. As usual, researchers study something – anything – that is […]

  157. […] of biological parents and the "safety" of our government parents: thanks to parental negligence, kids bring "unsafe" lunches to school that are ripe for bacteria. As usual, researchers study something – anything – that is […]

  158. “Just for the record, pentamom, we are “observing” food-borne illness in the media. Salmonella in eggs? E coli in hamburger (that one is real, and scary, too)? ”

    Which is a completely different topic from what we’re talking about here. I should have repeated myself more: we’re not observing food-borne illness in the media related to sack lunches at the rate that would be predicted if the measured contamination level of sack lunches in this report *actually posed a threat.*

    I.e., if 90% of sack lunches were not only *measurably contaminated,* but *actually posed a threat,* something a lot closer to 90% of preschoolers would be getting sick, week after week. If that was happening, no matter how bad our confirmation bias was or how poor our practical observational skills were, or whatever, *we would notice.*

    Unless people are sending raw eggs and hamburgers in sack lunches, those are a different “food borne illness” concern than how warm a PBJ sandwich gets in a lunch bag, though still a real one.

  159. Everything useful (and useless) and has said, so I’ll leave this in parting.

    If a parent wants to feed his child food that has not been refrigerated, that is fine with me. Not in reference to anyone in this thread, of course, but American parents feed their children appallingly bad food, often beginning the development of degenerative diseases (cardiovascular, diabetes 2) in childhood. Virtually no parent who feeds her kid like that would admit to doing anything wrong. They love the chubby little buggers to death.

    As I’ve said, I’ve worked and written against overreaction to risk for more than 20 years. I have taught my daughter to properly wash her hands and not put them in her mouth, but beyond that I’m not obsessed. I accept the evidence that Americans worry excessively about germs, and use unnecessary antibacterial products.

    I believe that meat recalls are generally a vast waste of good food. If the meat is properly cooked the germs are killed.

    My child attends a small Montessori school. I send her there specifically because I want more influence over her learning and life than I would have at a government school. One of the options available to me is that my girl can store her food in a fridge before lunch. I am confident, based on all known bacteriological evidence, that doing so keeps her food marginally safer. I also make sure she wears clean underwear and bathes religiously at least every 10 days. I don’t find any of these things to present us with great anxiety. We also find it useful to have a refrigerator at home, and for the identical reason.

    To the person who asked. When I give my daughter fruit — and the debate continues apace as to whether kids benefit from this source of sugar — I rub it as I rub my hands when I wash them. In both instances it is the rubbing action that most effective dislodges contaminants, not the water, or the soap in the case of hand washing.

    About 150 years ago, Semmelweis demonstrated that doctors were killing pregnant women by examining them and delivering their babies with contaminated hands. Though Semmelweis was able to quickly reduce maternity ward mortality, his fellow doctors scoffed at him and rejected the methods he recommended. They then proceeded to kill pregnant women for many years before adopting proper hygiene. Semmelweis’ reward for being right was to be driven mad in frustration and to be beaten to death in a psychiatric prison. Very few people are open to and influenced by science, preferring their own customs and superstitions.

    Dr. Semmelweis’ Biography

  160. Just an observation, though, Nicolas — you’re comparing denial about bad nutrition to a putative denial about sack lunches.

    But here’s the difference — the kids with the bad nutrition are objectively unhealthy. You can SEE the obesity, the Type II, etc. The kids eating the sack lunches have yet to be demonstrated to be unhealthy. All that’s yet been demonstrated about the sack lunches is a certain set of inputs which may or may not be affecting kids’ health, and as yet, most of us remain to be convinced that it is.

    All I’m asking (which you don’t seem to be disagreeing with) is that we tie risk more closely to outcomes (as in Semmelweis’ case), than to a reaction to what we think inputs mean. When someone starts demonstrating that sack lunches affect overall health, instead of just crying “Bacteria! Temperature! We know that must make it Bad!” I’m sure most people here are rational enough to listen.

  161. The Semmelweis reference was amazing! Very nicely done.

  162. When stories like this appear in the press, there is just one question ot ask: cui bono? Who benefits?

    In this case, I would say that it would be the manufacturers of ice packs and cooler bags…..and their shareholders.

  163. Wow I never heard that story about the maternity doctor. How horrible! Thank God for his hard work and intellect and how unfortunate that he was not treated as the hero he was.

  164. To the people who are appalled that I don’t find mild food poisoning concerning: eyroll!

    My 4yos get owies all the time. That’s because I allow them to live life to its fullest. I could prevent scraped knees in various ways. But it isn’t worth it. My kid just learned to ride a bike (sans training wheels, helmet and knee pads, thanks) and she is thrilled. The biggest reason for her success is that she’s not afraid of getting a little bump now and then.

    With food, it’s a little different, but also a lot similar. Building up my kids’ systems to take a variety of stuff and deal with it has health benefits, which seem to be completely overlooked by those who gasp with horror at the thought of eating a microbe. I don’t even wash our fruit and veggies most of the time. (We do buy organic, so no toxic pesticides and such). And I don’t make my kids wash their hands before eating. My kids are very healthy.

  165. Oh, and I wanted to add that science is great, but it is a big mistake to ignore experience in favor of science. That’s what happened in the 1990s and resulted in terrible policies and health problems. Like practically doing away with natural births, recommending formula over breastmilk even in countries where the water is unsafe, etc. Now they are figuring out that the old ways were often better, but they have not learned from their own mistakes.

    It is frankly shocking to hear someone say that a “scientific study” should trump thousands of years of contrary experience. A person who thinks that way does not understand the whole of what a human is, and I don’t want such a person advising in the name of “science.”

  166. I meant 1900s, not 1990s.

  167. As in 20th century.

  168. @ Nicolas

    So you doubt the health benefit for children to eat fresh fruits? Do you know how much vitamin and dietary fiber are in those (and surely other good things that I don’t know about)? Those are not just made of sugar! And anyway do you know that breast milk is sweeter than any fruit? Do you know that humans NEED sugar to live?

  169. So why are we all so fired up that we have a study that tells us that lunches, even in insulated bags with an icepack, aren’t really refrigerated? I for one am happy to know that. It’s just information. Not enough information on its own, but just information.

    Because even the people who did the study acknowledge that there’s no evidence that children are getting sick from too-warm lunches, and yet the people publishing it in the news are acting like we might all be killing our kids.

    I don’t blame the authors of the study. I do blame the media.

    Oh, and I wanted to add that science is great, but it is a big mistake to ignore experience in favor of science.

    In the 1900s, as today, often dubious hypotheses were promulgated as correct by people who didn’t really understand what they were doing and people who definitely didn’t understand what OTHER people were doing. I like to imagine we’re getting better at doing studies that find out the truth, and we may be, but we’re no better at spreading accurate information widely yet.

  170. Hi, Lenore,
    I’m a brazilian journalist and I’m writting an article about free raising kids. I’d like to know if you can give an interview about your book, “Free-Range Kids, How To Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts With Worry)”. If you’re available, please send me an e-mail: glaucia.cristin@gmail.com
    Thanks for your help!

    Gláucia Chaves

  171. Thank-you! When I heard the report, my first thought was, “If this is really dangerous, wouldn’t teachers notice that 98% of the kids who bring lunch from home are getting sick every day?” I don’t know if this article was just reported badly, but this kind of thing gives serious, helpful science a bad name. It just gives ammunition to the people who believe that government should not fund science.

  172. In this age of all media all the time, studies like this get totally distorted. Even if the original study says that there are no known illnesses from the food, the Good Morning Americas of the media do not report that part of it. The vast majority of Americans are scientifically undereducated and can not see a report like that without thinking it’s killing our kids. That’s what is so infuriating about these reports. It creates a hysteria where none should exist.

    And Dolly, using those cute little insulated packs are great until your kids grow up and decide they’re not cool. We’ve been relegated to brown bags as the only acceptable vehicle for lunches.

    Oh, and we’ve NEVER had a food-borne illness in our house, even after 5 years of packing lunches every day for 2 kids. And I’m not assuming it was the flu, we’ve NEVER had that either, even without flu shots. EVER. So I have no plans to change anything that I’m doing.

  173. “So why are we all so fired up that we have a study that tells us that lunches, even in insulated bags with an icepack, aren’t really refrigerated?”

    It doesn’t seem as though anyone is fired up about the STUDY. The problem is the media portraying this as crisis facing our children when, in fact, there has been no connection made to sack lunches and illness. It is a further ramping up of the mentality parenting as we’ve known it for generations was simply wrong and parents MUST DO MORE to be vigilant and protect the children — like pack the sack lunch in a cooler which is then taken to the school to put in a frig.

    I also dispute the belief that science should trump observation and experience. I don’t doubt that the turkey in my child’s sandwich yesterday was probably not at a scientifically optimal temp when consumed. Observation tells me that my child is not ill from said sandwich. Experience tells me that my child has not been ill a single time since school started 3 weeks ago after eating numerous sack lunches during the hottest time of the year. Clearly, eating turkey and cheese at suboptimal temperatures are not affecting my particular child and placing the sack lunch in a cooler and placing it in a frig at school or buying school lunches my picky child won’t eat is not a necessary precaution for me, regardless of what the media wants me to believe.

  174. The more I think about it, the people questioning the value (not the validity) of this study are being more scientific in the empirical sense, and the people saying we’re wrong are thinking more like the pre-scientific thinkers of the Middle Ages.

    People questioning: I agree with the theory and the results of the experiment, but I would like to see empirical evidence that those results lead to this particular outcome that we should be concerned about.

    People objecting to the questioning: Our well-established theory tells us that when a certain bacteria load exists in food, people will get sick. We also know that other kinds of bacteria in food make other people sick under different conditions, so it only stands to reason that children will get sick from sack lunches.

    There’s no problem with the theory, but just because the theory is sound, does not mean that something that is yet to be empirically observed (children getting sick in large numbers from sack lunches) or at least statistically/experimentally established, is a conclusion from the study. And the study itself admits this, but this is not the way it plays in the media, and not the way the average person will read it, in our atmosphere of worry-first.

  175. On another note, this column was in my local paper this morning. I like this writer generally, and I think the column is supposed to be mildly humorous, but in a sane world, this wouldn’t be humorous because it would be too ridiculous — we’d just think the woman was an idiot.


  176. Robin: LOL yeah I didn’t think about that. Oh the not being cool factor. When I was a teenager I never ate lunch at school period. I might occasionally split a hot lunch with a friend or get an ice cream on mini pizza but for the most part I ate cereal for breakfast and then ate when I got home in the afternoon. Mostly because our school started at 7:15 which means if you had first lunch you ate at like 10:00 and I was not hungry for lunch by then. I actually would go all day sometimes not eating anything even breakfast and be fine. Then when I got home at 2:30 I would pig out and then go to dance class and dance it all off. Not the most optimal thing to do, but that is what I did.

    By the time mine are teenagers they will be handling packing their own lunches or buying their own lunch, etc so I don’t really need to worry about that. ; P

  177. @pentamom, I just read that article and I tried to take it in a humorous way, but it was reall, really hard. I just can’t imagine living life with that many worries. It would be an incredible weight to carry every single day. Our son can’t have dairy products either, but if he has some on accident, he gets benadryl (luckily, it doesn’t cause him to swell, just makes him itchy all over). I don’t stress every minute he’s in nursery wondering if they’re going to forget and give him goldfish. I haven’t got the emotional reserve to spend that much time worrying.

  178. Parent threatened with arrest for letting her 5th grader ride the bike to school: http://bikewalktn.blogspot.com/2011/08/arrested-for-riding-bike-to-school.html

  179. And setting aside the “big worries” like the allergy stuff, most of that is, “Oh, gosh, he might be unhappy for a day. Then he’ll learn he can live through it.”

    And she carries him up the stairs? Seriously? (To be fair, he’s an only child after she lost the first one shortly after birth, but still….) Even if she does, doesn’t she think he’ll master it?

    The “waiting till the last minute to go to the bathroom thing” is classic. Send the extra clothing if it makes you feel better, but he’ll *only do it once* if he does it at all.

    And there’s this weird assumption that kindergarten teachers don’t have a grasp of the fact that kids say weird things, don’t know some other things, and are sometimes afraid of storms.

    Still, it’s so over the top it has to be mostly a joke. Even if she has these nagging concerns (and who among us doesn’t at least think about these things when our kids go into a new situation without us, even if we don’t obsess about them) I’m pretty sure she doesn’t really spend that much time stressing over it. She just spun it into what she thought would be an entertaining column.

    But like I said, it’s more a symptom of our culture that she thinks anyone would even relate to this as humor, rather than sheer stupidity.

  180. I still haven’t heard the reason why they did this study in the first place. Who considered it worthy of the money it cost? Why?

    I mean, it still blows my mind that someone did a study to prove that “when things have been out of the fridge for a while, they are no longer cold.” Or was the point to prove “hey, there might be a point to keeping food cold – could that be the reason why Americans have fridges?”

    As for the fancy lunch boxes – my mom refused to buy us lunchboxes, because kids lose them. That is too hard on a low-income family. Maybe this isn’t an issue for parents who drop their kids off and pick them up at the door of their classroom, but I don’t plan to be doing that much longer. I abhor waste, so I will use whatever method creates the least of it based on my experience with my kids.

  181. The linked article about the KG kid – I found it cute. I just put my 4yo in KG. She has vision issues and hates most foods. Like most 4yos, she might not perfectly communicate her needs. So I can relate a little. I am pretty sure whe writer was just trying to be funny.

    I’m not worried about my kid. But it’s an adjustment to get used to the idea that she’s on her own within the walls of that room. It will pass.

  182. Oh yes I didn’t think about losing them. Well I would think that kids that don’t ride the bus to school have less chance of losing the fancy lunch boxes. Mine will be walking and so the only way they would lose it is if they drop it on the way home or just forget it at school but it would be there in the classroom the next day. I get their names put on their LL Bean backpacks and will do so on their lunchboxes too so I think the chance of them getting stolen or lost are not huge hopefully.

  183. “I’m not worried about my kid. But it’s an adjustment to get used to the idea that she’s on her own within the walls of that room. It will pass.”

    Right, SKL. I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t get normal first-time-sending-first-kid-to-school stuff and how it can seem bigger than it is. When my oldest started school for the first time in NINTH GRADE you can believe I had a laundry list of stuff to worry about! And I’ve had some e-mail interaction with the writer about her food columns and genuinely like her as far as I know her. I just find it an interesting cultural observation on what passes for humor. Do you think that column would have made any sense at all, even as humor, to our grandparents? Doesn’t it sound silly in light of the hundreds of millions of American children who have gone off to KG before today? 🙂

  184. Dolly, my siblings and I were walkers. Believe me, walkers lose stuff. I’ve heard of walkers actually losing the shoes they were wearing. But most definitely things that have to be carried in a hand. Because we didn’t just walk straight home like sheep, looking neither to the right nor the left, avoiding the distractions of a great climbing-tree, honeysuckles, new kids on the next block, a sale in the craft store along the way . . . .

  185. @pentamom- I really, really tried to find the humor in that.
    I just had this conversation with a good friend last week (we both send our 5 year olds to kindgarten today.)
    Her daughter called her up twice to the bathroom to WIPE HER ASS during her visit. She didn’t blink an eye. When I asked her what she planned on doing as the kid is going to school, she said she was hoping she wouldn’t “go” at school.
    I just told her flat out that that teacher won’t appreciate someone who hasn’t master potty training 101 (we go to public, 1/2 day kindergarten so I don’t think the teacher will have time for this.)
    Said maybe she needed to accept skid marks….sheesh.

  186. Pentamom, I’m not sure one way or the other. I guess I’d have to ask my mom. I have a feeling this is more of a maternal instinct thing than a nanny state thing. I don’t think I baby my kids, but I still don’t see them as “big kids” most of the time, just yet. (Of course, I don’t tell them that.)

  187. LOL about the skid marks! I must admit that butt wiping was one of the few tasks my kids didn’t take over earlier than most. One was willing, but did it half-assed. The other was a perfectionist and didn’t trust herself. But at 4.5 I drew the line. Do it and do it right. One still asks for help sometimes, but I won’t give it. (She takes for freakin’ ever, so it’s tempting, but I have to be strong.) In a public restroom, I’m sure the conversation sounds a bit odd . . . .

  188. Yeah I also admit I need to get mine ready because next year they will be off to all day kindy. We are working on it. I babyied mine a lot in terms of sippy cups, wiping themselves, putting on their own clothes, etc but that was for my benefit. I just only have so much patience and time when it comes to teaching two kids at the same time a new skill.

  189. Dolly – trying to help both girls learn to ride bikes on a hot summer day nearly killed me. There should be a parent-conditioning boot camp. Maybe I’ll start one.

  190. LOL SKL. Yeah I will be teaching mine to ride bikes too soon but luckily for me it will be in Winter/Spring since they are getting them for Christmas!

    People always ask if I exercise and I say “only what I get by chasing the kids around” and you know, that is definitely some work!

  191. Oh, Dolly, if your kids don’t lose stuff all the time walking home, you’ll be lucky. EVEN when you’re walking right along with them!

    Not a week went by these past three falls and winters and springs without me finding one of the nieces had lost a scarf or a jacket or a hat and somebody else had carefully draped over a fire hydrant, tied to a fence, or wrapped around a tree branch. And I was glad for it! We’re only a few blocks from the school!

    This year it’s just bound to get worse as the nieces go to different schools on different sides of the Island. (I’m not happy about this, not least because it’s going to make scheduling a beast, but the school one niece is in for the gifted program strikes me as an EXTREMELY bad fit for the other one for demographic reasons. Oh well, it’s only until Ana’s in middle school….)

  192. SKL – since over half of the lunches measured were either in a refrigerator or packed with one or more ice packs, presumably the research was intended, in part, to measure the efficacy of those attempts to keep food at safe temperatures. Also, because the kids were all preschoolers, a population that has previously been shown to have a higher incidence of food-borne illness, this study may help pave the way for a better understanding of food-borne illness and how to prevent it.

  193. Ugh not looking forward to having to go hunt up their stuff they leave behind. The walk is super short so the stuff can probably be hunted up.

  194. […] free-range momma wonders what the difference is between a sack lunch and a recently beating […]

  195. Dolly – now you see why my mom provided brown bags. It was a step up from the bread bags that some kids used.

  196. Yes I do see SKL. I am just going to have to put the fear in them that they better NOT lose their expensive LL Bean ones or heads will roll! I could get one of those clips and tell them to clip it on to the backpack.

  197. Good luck with that, Dolly! You could tell tham that is their one and only lunchbox and they aren’t getting another one, ever, and show them what a brown bag looks like for contrast.

    But then beware of what treasures they might put in the lunchbox on the way home . . . .

    That’s one neat byproduct of free-range childrearing: every day a new surprise – not always a good one!

    It still amazes me that my mother survived six of us without even killing anyone.

  198. Dolly, we’re 4 weeks into kindergarten. So far the lunch box has made it home every day it’s been taken to school (Yay). The water bottle wasn’t so lucky. That disappeared in week 2. And this is for a child who doesn’t walk to and fro school and yet somehow managed to lose it at school or the YMCA. Good luck with those lunch boxes.

    My daughter’s lunch box does clip to her backpack. The handle comes apart so that it can be put around something.

  199. I brought my lunch to school almost every day from age 4 to 12th grade. I never had any issues with food being too hot. Now I am a nanny, and i often carry around our food with us throughout the day… other than the older child’s complaint that he doesn’t like cheese that isn’t cold, everything is fine. I often put a tupperware container with cut up fruit, carrots, etc back in the fridge and refill it the next day.

  200. In 1999 my brother and a friend of I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (a 2600 mile trail from Mexico to Canada through the mountains of California, Oregon and Washington). Well, I got off in Oregon.

    Anyway, we had to pack boxes of food which our friend’s mother sent to us at intervals of about 3-5 days as we hiked. We prepared our boxes ahead of time with hot cereal, pasta, peanut butter and so forth, but get this: She would buy a pound of Monterrey Jack and a pound of cheddar cheese, put those in the boxes, seal them up, and send them to us at various post offices along the way, general delivery. So our cheese was at room temperature (or higher) for about a week in the mail before we got to the post office to open our boxes. Then we would pack our food in our packs and take that well-traveled, room temperature cheese and eat it over the next few days until we got to our next cheese stop. We really looked forward to that cheese: protein and fat.

    Did I mention that we went 23 days without bathing? 14 of those days were without soap. (I lost our soap.) We cooked all our dinners in one pot and ate out of that same pot and we only had two spoons between the three of us (our friend kept losing her spoon). So, we’d take a bite and pass the spoon to the left.

    Anyway, my point is that most of us have a pretty good immune system.

  201. @Donna et al: actually I see several comments on here that seem to be peeved at the fact that anyone would bother to study the temperature of a packed lunch.

    Why do we do studies like this and why should they be funded? Because it’s a step. Now we know packed lunches aren’t really at recommended refrigerator temperatures despite the icepacks and spendy insulated bags. The next step is to ask whether kids who eat packed lunches get more food-borne illnesses than kids who don’t (despite all the testimonials here, I don’t know the answer to that). Then we need to ask if any particular foods are more likely to grow enough pathogens to make someone sick by lunchtime. Then maybe we can use that information to make changes to how we pack our kids lunches. Or maybe we find out we don’t have to.

    @Robin has it right — we in North America are sadly undereducated when it comes to the scientific process. Wouldn’t it be nice if the media took the opportunity to help us understand research instead of jumping to conclusions?

  202. As a lawyer, I’ll just say that if a group of attorneys put their professional efforts into this matter to the same extent and at the same cost, there would be no “oh, law is wonderful, law is superior, you plebes don’t understand” like I’m hearing about the wonders of science.

    There’s money in research. Always. It’s never without an agenda.

  203. According to the 58 page handbook of my kid’s new preschool, state regulations for daycare centers/preschools *mandate* that all perishable food must be kept in the refrigerator. The school makes the process fairly easy at least, but state regulation of bagged lunches from home…really?

  204. In senior year of high school I used to leave my ham and cheese sandwich on my dashboard so the cheese would melt etc. I never got sick from it once. Maybe because I was raised on bag lunches and nature took over in ensuring I could handle it.

  205. “Why do we do studies like this and why should they be funded? Because it’s a step.”

    A step towards what? Has anyone determined that there is a legitimate lunch problem to be solved? Are a large number of children who eat sack lunches getting ill?

    It seems like the research is backwards. The first question should be: do children who bring sack lunches to school have a notable level of food-borne illnesses? If the answer to that question is “no,” this is simply scare tactic research – kids are perfectly fine but science needs to give us something to worry about. If the answer is “yes,” then the second question to answer is whether a link between food-borne illnesses and sack lunches can be established. Only if the answer to that is “yes,” do we need to worry about how we can better prepare sack lunches.

    I’m not riled up about the research at all. I just think the research is meaningless until we know whether there is a problem to be solved. Only when we have an answer to that question should this research be news.

  206. I just found your blog. It’s a breath of fresh air. I struggle to parent appropriately, but refuse to freak out like some parents I see over seemingly harmless things. I got “a talking to” at the park because my 2 year old climbed up the slide. Then she slid down too close to another girl and they both fell down at the bottom. Apparently it was a crime. The other mom was very unhappy about it. I tried to listed to her. It seemed harmless enough. Ah… I guess I will have many run ins with helicopter moms… But I’m not one, and it’s nice to see you here and feel a bit affirmed. 🙂

  207. “The school makes the process fairly easy at least, but state regulation of bagged lunches from home…really?”

    I agree there’s too much regulation, but it seems like they’re just mandating that any perishable food on the premises be kept a certain way. There’s no sense in which they’re regulating how *you* put the lunch together, only how it (and any other food) should be kept on the premises. That doesn’t seem to be too unreasonable.

    If the regulation said that “all food brought from home must be packaged in insulated containers that maintain a temperature of 40F or less….” that would be ridiculous.

  208. “There’s no sense in which they’re regulating how *you* put the lunch together, only how it (and any other food) should be kept on the premises. That doesn’t seem to be too unreasonable.”

    Except to those of us who don’t like food prepared that way. I HATE bread that has been refrigerated. Always have. Therefore, a regulation that REQUIRES me to refrigerate a turkey sandwich means that I can’t bring a turkey sandwich for lunch. Seems like an unreasonable regulation considering there appears to be no evidence to show that a room temperature turkey sandwich is actually dangerous.

  209. Okay, that’s a fair point, Donna. I didn’t think of that. I don’t mind refrigerated sandwiches, but I too prefer things like fruit, fresh veggies and water at room temperature rather than refrigerated. So I should have thought of it.

  210. Not washing hands is brining more bacteria to the lunchroom than even the mayo-laden sandwich which has been stored in a brown bag, in a backpack, sitting outside for 4 hours.

  211. Thank you for posting this! It drove me nuts when I read it, because I just know that’s going to be another thing that schools will give us a sideways glance for…as if letting my kids walk wasn’t bad enough! I’m sorry, but I buy my kids a lunch pail and containers at the beginning of the year (a “green” thing, not a food safety thing), and there are ice packs with them if they want to use them, but my boys lose things, and the rule is, once your bag/ice pack is gone TOO BAD! You are taking lunch in a used Target bag for the rest of the year, ice or no ice!

  212. I kid you not, I live in an affluent suburb in NY and when reviewing my counties food Inspection health site, my daughters elementary school received the most “red” flags in the county!!! This was compared to all the other restaurants etc.

  213. Having taken a number of food safety courses, dairy and meat products have four hours at an undesirable temperature before they’re unsafe.

  214. School started at 9:00 when I was a kid and we ate at noon. Sounds reasonable to me.

  215. Students start arriving at my school at 7 am (other elementary in my district open the building at 7:15 or 7:30 but we feed 90% or more of our kids breakfast). Classes start at 7:45

    We have 30 min recess before lunch and then a 30 minute lunch, Teachers either have recess duty or lunch duty the other time is their duty free lunch. (We used to use aides to monitor the lunch room/help kids having teachers do it reduces cost and buys us double the recess we had before current principal)

    PK Mornings eat at 10:20
    PK Afternoon eat at 11:15 – 11:45
    K start at 10:30 or 10:40
    1st start at 10:50 or 11:00
    2nd start at 11:10 or 11:20
    3rd start at 11:30 or 11:40
    4th start at 11:50 or 12:00
    5th start at 12:10 or 12:20
    Life skills 11:30
    PPCP/Pegasus 10:20

    Life skills and PPCP/Pegus get Extra lunch time because Life SKills students have physical or cognitive disabilities severe enough that their students can’t be mainstreamed.

    PPCP kids have disabilities and are under 5. It is an early intervention program that mixes kids with disabilities with “normal” kids.

    Pegasus kids are children of staff potty trained – 4. They get a PK curriculum, parents pay for day care average for our area but is a savings because you don’t have to pay to maintain your “place” during school holidays. One of my coworkers had a daughter in Pegasus, who is now in K. She says her daughter has a deeper understanding of how people feel than her older children did at this age. See credits the child being in Pegasus.

  216. very interesting info friend ………..

  217. thanks for information ………

  218. […] Do parent-packed school meals require refrigeration protocols once thought suitable for human organs destined for transplant? Lenore Skenazy examines a ridiculous media scare. [Free-Range Kids] […]

  219. @Kristi and @Bob.

    Are you kidding?! These kinds of stories are not planted by the big, bad unions. They are printed because they sell newspapers or increase ratings; because parents – a HUGE and constant market – will reliably want to know more about any new “threat” to their children. If the stories didn’t sell, the news outlets wouldn’t release them, despite the (imagined) sinister plans of public employees!

  220. Hey, welcome to the world that the food-service industry lives in EVERY DAY.

    This is like those “regulations” about how you have to call the hazmat team when you break a CFL bulb. What it means is that people who do this PROFESSIONALLY have to adhere to stricter regulations than the rest of us. It doesn’t mean for an instant that the FDA honestly believes your kid’s lunch is dangerously contaminated. What it MEANS is that if a SANDWICH SHOP treated its food the way most home-acked lunches are treated, they’d be shut down for being a dangerous health hazard.

  221. My son just started kindergarten and his school thinks it is ok to leave sack lunches out side in a plastic tub. We live in California where it is 75 degrees out most of the school year. Not only are they left out side for 4hours and 20 min before he gets to eat it but they are coverd in ants. I am trying to get this taken care of with no help from the principal. If any one has any ideas please help.

  222. […] these lines, Free-Range Kids author Lenore Skenazy is engaged in an ongoing and valiant effort to inject a dose of sanity into […]

  223. huh … frankly, it’s never occurred to me to use an ice pack, and i put things like yogurt and cheese sticks in her lunch all the time. the other day i put MAYO on her sandwich. and i don’t necessarily use factory-sealed things either, often i’ll buy the big container of, say, apple sauce or vanilla yogurt and just decant it into a mini plastic food container and put it in. it’s cheaper.

    but then, i once left an unopened and still factory-sealed carton of milk on the kitchen counter overnight and when i found it in the morning, knowing how hyper-pasturized supermarket milk is anyway, i tossed it in the fridge and we drank it all, no problem. my coworkers were AGHAST. seriously, it’s not like it was an open bowl of milk left curdling on the counter ferchrissakes.

    apparently i’m not that squeamish, lol. my poor child. the flora in her intestinal track must be immune to pretty much everything by now.

  224. dahlia: Contrary to popular belief, mayonaisse isn’t much of a risk for food poisoning: it’s too acidic to support bacterial growth. Food poisoning due to bad chicken salad or the like is due to bacterial growth in the chicken pieces themselves, not the mayo.

  225. Wow, I never even knew that something we did everyday when I was a kid was dangerous, and I grew up in Louisiana, it gets hot! To this day, clammy, squished, homogeneously-warm chicken sandwiches still transport me back to childhood, on a playground somewhere.

  226. I know I’m late to the party here, but this is excellent. I guess it never occurred to people that maybe parents just might send in shelf-stable things? In the winter, I’ll pack a reusable tupperware-type container with milk in it (plus ice pack in an insulated lunch bag). When it’s hot out, we buy milk at school. But I can’t fathom how crackers, pretzels, juice boxes, nuts, raisins, apples, bananas, grapes, and a whole host of other kid-lunch fare are dangerous at room temperature. Or are we all supposed to have walk-in freezers for our fruit now?

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, even when it’s in the 80’s I can put a cheese stick in the bag under the ice-pack thinggy and, if it’s not eaten, it comes home cool to downright cold. That’s 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM.

  227. Have you checked out the awesome new product PackIt? It keeps cold for up to 10 hours and all you have to do is freeze them for 12-14 hours before each use. This product is amazing!!!! Check it out at packit.com

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