Next time you pack your child's lunchbox with delicious, nutritious goodies, spare a thought for the less-than-appetising nasties that could be lurking within it.
The results of a study by e-cloth have shown that almost three quarters (73%) of fabric lunch boxes are likely to harbour high counts of harmful germs. It also found that if lunchboxes aren't properly and regularly cleaned, they can become a breeding ground for mould. Mould spores can cause health problems such as itchy eyes, migraines, coughs, asthma and even aspergillosis - a serious health condition that weakens the immune system.
Just as concerning was the fact that the bacteria Staphylococci and Enterococci, which are usually found inside the human body, were found to be present in some of the lunch boxes in the study.
The NHS warns that eating food contaminated with these bacterias can lead to serious cases of food poisoning.
Why are these germs making their way into our lunchboxes?
The aforementioned bacteria are often found on surfaces such as door handles, toilet flushes, desks and kitchen surfaces.
"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," says e-cloth's Commercial Director, Laurence Smith. "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."
How to clean a fabric lunch box
Keep your hands clean: Before you clean it, wash your hands to prevent bacteria transferring from skin to food.
Clean your lunch box after every use: The best way to stop bacteria and mould from thriving is to give the lunch box a good wipe down.
Use vinegar: Distilled white vinegar is a fantastic cleaner that can take on a wide range of household cleaning tasks. Fill an old trigger spray bottle with a solution of half distilled white vinegar and half water and use this along with a clean cloth to wipe down the surfaces of the lunchbox.
Use a disinfectant: Once the lunchbox is clean, use a disinfectant spray such as Zoflora Rhubarb & Cassis Multipurpose Disinfectant Cleaner or Milton Antibacterial Surface Spray to spritz the lunchbox. Leave for a few minutes then wipe down with a clean cloth and allow to finish drying naturally.
Use bicarbonate of soda to deodorise a smelly lunchbox: Sprinkle it into the lunchbox and leave overnight to do its magic, then tip out.
Use baby wipes: they're not designed for removing bacteria.
Use a tea towel or dish cloth: They might make the lunchbox look clean on the surface, but all they've done is move the bacteria around.
Put it in the washing machine: Check the care instructions first, but it's unlikely they'll say the lunchbox is machine washable.
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