How Dirty Is Your Kid's Lunchbox? You May Not Want to Know

A new study looks at the things you didn't pack, and don't want, in your child's lunch.
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

Paging all Type-A parents, like me! Here's some news that will keep you up at night: Your child's lunchbox is likely coated in germy bacteria, according to a new study.

It's not surprising that e-cloth found almost three-quarters of kiddos' fabric lunch bags are literally filthy with mold that could cause any number of concerning health problems—itchy eyes, migraines, eczema, asthma, and aspergillosis, a potentially-serious infection. Just think about the surfaces your child's lunch container comes in contact with; my daughter tells me her lunchbox is stored in a bin with the lunchboxes of every other kid in her class. Then, she puts it on a lunch table tons of other kids have touched and had their lunch sacks on. No wonder kids' lunch containers are virtual petri dishes!

Researchers also detected two forms of bacteria on lunch containers that can lead to food-borne illness; namely Staphylococci and Enterococci. Laurence Smith, commercial director of e-cloth explained the findings, saying, "The high volumes of non food-borne bacteria suggests that we aren't washing our hands before we pack or eat from our lunch boxes. It also shows that we aren't cleaning them properly either, which is allowing [mold] to spore and bacteria to grow."

So even if your child's lunch container looks clean, it may not be. Ahem, so shaking out the chip crumbs and wiping away spilled juice isn't enough? Apparently not, in light of this research.

Instead, it's recommended that parents thoroughly clean kids' lunchboxes after each use. Hot, soapy water works well, but stay away from chemical cleaners, since children touch the surfaces of their lunch bag or box, as does their food. A natural cleaner is also a good alternative.

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It's also essential that we remind our kids to wash their hands before eating. I am comforted to know that this is something my daughter's teacher encourages pre-lunch period. Still, um, I'll be giving her lunchbox a deeper clean than usual after school!

Melissa Willets is a writer, mom and coffee devotee. Find her on Facebook and Instagram where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.

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