BOSTON (CBS) – It’s back to packing lunches for school again. One important step in packing lunches is to make sure the food stays at the right temperature before your child eats it.

That means it’s time to say goodbye to the brown paper bag, according to Boston University professor of nutrition Joan Salge Blake.

“Those days are gone. Now we know better,” Salge Blake said.

The most important factor is keeping things cold enough during the day. Salge Blake said the danger zone for food is between 40 and 140 degrees.

“Bacteria love that warm weather, and they will start multiplying quite rapidly,” she said.

A recent survey found many lunches are too warm by the time kids sit down to the eat them.

Scientists at the University of Texas checked the lunches of 705 preschoolers, and 90% were too warm to be considered safe; 39% didn’t have an ice pack.

Salge Blake said it is very important to pack a lunch the right way. For example, the most perishable items should be closest to an ice pack.

Another factor is that lunches are much different today than they once were.

“We are bringing a lot of cut up perishables. We are bringing yogurt now. We are bringing string cheese. We are bringing things that really should stay cold,” explained Salge Blake.

Here’s something else to consider. While uncut fruits and vegetables are safe if they are not kept cold, the same cannot be said once they are cut up. In that case, they must be kept near the ice pack as well.


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