A team of researchers who inspected over seven hundred lunch boxes discovered that the majority of their contents posed a possible health hazard.
Scientists in America visited a number of pre –school childcare providers on three separate occasions, checking the temperature of hundreds of different yoghurts, sandwiches and other perishable foods.
They were surprised to discover that 99 percent of diary produce, 99 percent of vegetables and 97 percent of meats were kept at temperatures that were unsafe.
Despite the fact that 12 percent of lunches were stored in fridges and almost half contained an ice pack, only 22 out of 1,361 were judged to be at a safe temperature.
The report is the first of its kind to assess the condition of packed lunches ninety minutes before lunchtime. Harmful bacteria such as salmonella, staphylococcus aureus and E.coli, multiply when the temperature is between 40f – 140f.
It is recommended that any food which is kept within this temperature range for two hours or more should not be eaten. The mean temperature of the food that was examined was 64f – well within the so called ‘danger zone’.
A spokesman for the British Food Standards Agency explained that they don’t have specific guidelines for children’s packed lunches. Instead they urged the public to use their common sense and keep food chilled until it is required.
The researchers found little to suggest that either teachers or parents were taking the simplest precautions, such as making sure that meals were refrigerated as soon as the child arrives at school.
The researchers also recommended that parents should not use insulated bags as this can prevent them from cooling. They also suggested that water and juices could be frozen to help them stay fresh and chill other food.
It has been estimated that around one million people contract food poisoning in Britain every year. Of these 20,000 require treatment in hospital whilst 500 die.