We discovered some startling news this school year: Of the 43 lunchboxes we evaluated for our "Back to School Guide," not one kept food safely chilled until the time a child eats lunch...
From the time your child leaves the house the temperature of his or her lunch begins to rise. Once perishable foods reach temperatures of 40°F or above, they should be eaten within 2 hours to minimize the risk of food-borne illness. While it may not be an issue if your child eats an early lunch or leaves the house late, kids who leave at 7 a.m. may eat a lunch that's been out of refrigeration 5 or 6 hours. Here are three strategies for ensuring that your child eats a safe lunch every day.
1. Freeze the sandwich: In our tests, a sandwich pulled straight from the fridge didn't stay safely chilled for two hours, even when packed with an ice pack. By freezing the sandwich the night before, including an ice pack, and refrigerating everything else (like fruit or juice boxes) we found a sandwich can stay cold until lunchtime.
2. Pack nonperishables: Another safe option is to pack foods that aren't perishable. Crackers, whole fruit, and juice boxes are obvious choices but we found lots of other shelf-stable options including Horizon Organic Milk Boxes, Babybel Cheese, and Dole Fruit Cups.
3. Consider school lunch: You won't be able to control exactly what your child eats, but hopefully you can be sure that the food is handled and refrigerated properly. School lunch also tends to be inexpensive and offers variety.
To find a lunch box that's easy to use and keep clean, see our recommended lunch boxes for this back-to-school season.More from Good Housekeeping: