Food-borne illness is very common. Every year, one of every 6 people get sick from “something they ate.” In warm weather, food brought from home and food out of refrigeration may reach temperatures in the danger zone for bacterial growth. Bacteria can multiply more easily when the temperature is more than 40 degrees F. and less than 140 degrees F. In a 2011 study, only 1.6% of the lunches with perishable items that children brought from home were at a safe temperature. Even when sent with ice packs, the temperature of most of the lunches was in the danger zone for over an hour before it was time to serve the food.
Early education staff members should use a food thermometer to check that unrefrigerated perishable food is at a safe temperature before feeding it to children. If in doubt, throw out perishable food that has been in the danger zone for 2 or more hours, including cooked food. For Fact Sheets to distribute to staff and families, go to http://fightbac.org/campaigns/fight-bac-goes-to-childcare.
(Adapted from a 2011 ECELS Health Capsule)