Food For Thought
Almost every day, I make my rounds through various news sites in the hopes of keeping myself informed and trying to learn something new. I came across this article on CNN’s site which highlighted a study on box lunches and the findings that most were not packed properly, resulting in the food and drink items rising to unsafe temperatures. USDA says that “bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 ° and 140 °F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes” and the “Meat and Poultry Hotline advises consumers to never leave food out of refrigeration over 2 hours.” I remember when I brought my lunch throughout elementary school, my juice box was always frozen in the hopes of keeping my sandwich and other goodies nice and cold for lunch. There were a few times it would thaw too quickly and I wouldn’t eat my lunch; lukewarm cheese and greasy room temperature mayo aren’t exactly appealing to an 8 year old. Mainly, the article covered something that should be common sense; some food needs to stay cold in order to be safe for consumption.
What bothered me about this article wasn’t the article itself, but the responses from some of the readers. People stating that when they were kids, they didn’t use ice packs so kids today shouldn’t either. “Facts” about how the preservatives in lunch meat will keep it from spoiling even when kept at room temperature. Claims that using ice packs will do nothing but weaken children; they need the bacteria to form in their lunch in order to boost their immune system. Saying it isn’t worth using an ice pack because it causes a puddle to be left in the bag. It was disturbing to me to see how little these people seemed to care about the health and well-being of helpless little kids who are at the mercy of their parents in regards to what they are fed.
I wouldn’t do any less for my child than what I do for myself, and from there I’d go an extra mile. My lunch comes to work in an insulated lunch bag with at least 2 ice packs, plus a bottle of ice cold water. In all honesty, my main reason for doing this is that I prefer my yogurt to be North Pole cold, my sandwich to taste like it was just made, my cheese to be firm rather than half melted. I’ve thrown food away before due to the temperature getting too high and the taste and quality of the food diminishing. The second reason is that I understand that certain foods must be stored at certain temperatures or properly cooked to higher temperatures. I’ve gotten sick over ranch dressing from a pizza joint that got too hot from sitting next to a cheesy masterpiece. My stomach has complained over consuming cooked food that has been sitting out for 3 hours or more at a party or family event. I’ve definitely had that feeling of never wanting to eat again after eating lunch meat that warmed up and stayed that way too long.
Maybe I’m a paranoid parent, but there is zero chance I would send my boy to school with a lunch that will become a potential health hazard by mealtime. He starts kindergarten in a week and I’m expecting to do a mix of sending bag lunches and paying for school lunches. I’ll be buying him an insulated lunch bag, similar to mine but one covered in Captain America or possibly Spongebob. I have a cool Iron Man ice pack in the freezer for him that will likely be paired with a Coleman ice pack that I prefer to use; it stays cold from the time I leave the house until the time I return and doesn’t cause any issues with condensation. If other parents want to criticize, let them. They can do whatever they want with their own kids. Me, I’d rather err on the side of caution than follow the herd and risk the health of my boy.