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Are Kids Brown-Bagging Bacteria?
Date:8/8/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Despite parents' best intentions, many school lunches packed at home may reach unsafe temperatures by the time a child eats, and that's true even when lunches are packed in an insulated container with ice packs.

A new study of preschoolers' lunches found that more than 90 percent of the food sent from home was at an unsafe temperature long before children started eating.

"The main finding of our study is that more than 90 percent of perishable items were at an unacceptable temperature -- according to USDA guidelines -- an hour and a half before lunch," said study author Fawaz Almansour, a doctoral candidate in the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Texas at Austin.

"This was an eye opener. As a parent, when my child comes home with a stomachache or vomiting, I usually think it's a virus. I don't think the food I serve is the problem," he said.

But, foodborne pathogens may actually be the cause. When kept at improper temperatures, bacteria can multiply rapidly, which makes foodborne illness more likely. And, the study authors pointed out that food-borne illness is a particular risk for youngsters under the age of 5 years.

Results of the study will be published online Aug. 8, and will appear in the September issue of Pediatrics.

The study included nine central Texas day care centers that care for children between the ages of 3 and 5. Most of the parents were married, and almost 90 percent of the parents had at least some post-secondary education, according to the study. Seventy percent of the families were white, 12 percent were Asian, 9 percent were Hispanic and 3 percent were black. Sixty percent of the parents were between 30 and 39 years old.

The researchers tested the temperature of individual perishable items from 705 lunches. They tested the foods 1.5 hours before the kids' scheduled
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