Food-borne illness is very common. The risk of this type of illness increases in warm weather. Sending food from home and eating out-of-doors may allow perishable food to reach temperatures that foster bacterial growth. A 2011 study reported in the journal, Pediatrics measured temperatures of lunches that families packed and sent with their preschool children. The researchers found only 1.6% of lunches with perishable items were at safe temperature. The study was done in nine Texas child care centers and measured temperatures in the packed lunches of more than 700 preschoolers. Even when sent with ice packs, most of the lunches were at unsafe temperatures over an hour before the food was ready to be served. The message is clear: Early educators and families must adopt practices that ensure food is at a safe temperature before feeding it to children.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is distributing key messages for child care. On the FightBac website are Fact Sheets about safe temperatures, how to thaw frozen foods, and how to keep food safe that must travel. Everyone needs to be reminded about throwing out any perishable food that has been out of refrigeration for 2 hours, including cooked food. You can reproduce the Fact Sheets for distribution to staff and families. They are available along with other useful child care handouts at http://www.fightbac.org/kidsfoodsafety/young-children-child-care-training/. Updated 4-2019.