What could be lurking in your child's lunch bag? Mold, E. coli and fecal bacteria

You take the time to pack healthy lunches for your child (or let's be honest, yourself!), but you could be making them sick without knowing it. If you're using reusable lunch boxes, this applies to you. 

The problem with reusable lunch boxes is that parents rarely clean the fabrics, and that's where the problem starts. The result can make your child sick-- causing digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation, vomiting and even skin infections. 

“We put things like fruits and vegetables which carry their own bacteria, and also they can make us sick,” said Dr. Shilpi Agarwai.

Dr. Agarwal was surprised at what she found when she swabbed her own child’s reusable lunch box.

“Things like mold spores, E. coli and fecal bacteria as well. So anything and everything is fair game in these lunch boxes," she revealed on FOX 5 News Morning.


Bacteria is everywhere, but reusable lunch boxes make for a prime environment for them to thrive because they are damp, dark, and closed up, Dr. Agarwai said. 

So what can you do to make sure you're sending a clean lunch box to school with your child? Here are some tips: 


Brown paper bags, Dr. Agarwal said, are much more sanitary. If you do use reusable bags, however; keep it clean by washing it often-- and washing your hands. 

“First, a lot of hand washing. We are finding with all the bacteria that we're isolating that it's probably because people aren't washing their hands before they prepare the child's lunch,” she said.

Also, make sure the little ones keep their own hands clean before eating lunch.

Second, Dr. Agarwal recommends making sure you wash out the reusable lunch boxes with antibacterial wipes.

“If you wipe it out and let it air overnight you’ve eliminated that residue,” she said.

PRO TIP: Reusable lunch boxes can be put in the washing machine with kitchen towels. Yes, the washing machine!



This applies to everybody. Dr. Agarwal said that putting water bottles in the dishwasher and sanitizing them kills lingering bacteria.

“I think the reusable water bottle is definitely great for the environment and we should all be using that. But cleaning it efficiently and frequently is the most important thing,” she said. “Even if you don't sanitize, putting it in the dishwasher will help it because that high heat kills everything. It makes it a lot cleaner.”

Sanitize every few of days, she says, and make to wash with arm soapy water daily.



- Seldom-cleaned cloth/fabric lunch bags

- Fruits, vegetables, or meats

- Bacteria can cause gastrointestinal illness, fever and diarrhea


MORE INFO: http://www.onemedical.com/dc/physicians/shilpi-agarwal/