Millions of children across the country have gone back to school this month and loving parents are packing them off with lunch boxes full of goodness. However, new research out today by e-cloth, has discovered that they could unknowingly be packing them full of nasties too as an underworld of harmful bacteria has been found lurking beneath our little ones’ lunches.
Nearly three quarters (73%) of fabric lunch boxes tested were found to contain mould counts of up to 950 colony forming units (CFU) per 10 cm squared. If left these could continue to spore, causing health problems such as itchy eyes, migraines, eczema, coughs and asthma as well as aspergillosis; a more serious condition that can affect those with weakened immune systems.
More alarming however was the presence of Staphylococci (20%), in particular, Staphylococcus Aureus (580 CFU in one case) and Enterococci (20%) - bacteria that is usually found inside our bodies rather than on food.
Staphylococci is common and around 1 in 3 people carry the bacteria harmlessly. Similarly, Enterococci are normally found in a person’s gut or bowel without causing a problem. However, the NHS warn that eating food contaminated with either of these bacteria can lead to serious cases of food poisoning.
These bacteria are often found on frequently use surfaces (such as door handles, toilet flushes, desk and kitchen surfaces), which have been touched by unwashed hands, particularly following bathroom use.
The tests also found that Yeast was present in over two thirds (66%) of lunch boxes tested, and high counts of up to 920 CFU of Enterobacteriaceae were also found hiding under our ham sandwiches.
Laurence Smith, Commercial Director of e-cloth said “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 mould to spore and bacteria to grow.”
“They might look clean, with their shiny interior, and often, all we’ll do is shake out the crumbs but there is an underworld of invisible germs growing that we all need to be aware of.”
Vicki, Founder of The Green Cleaner said: “Whist it might be alarming to discover this bacteria in the lunch boxes of our loved ones, there is a really simple fix to the problem. A thorough clean after every use is all that’s needed. I wash my son’s lunch bag every evening with an e-cloth in hot soapy water and leave it to dry naturally overnight.
“It’s important not to use chemical cleaning sprays on anything our children and especially their food touches. There is lots of research suggesting these sprays are very damaging to our health. The best thing to do is keep it natural. If you wouldn’t eat or drink it, then my advice is, don’t use it.”
Follow these top tips to ensure a healthy lunchbox:
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