Canadian moms earn top marks when it
comes to good hygiene practices, but a new study by Lysol and the
Global Hygiene Council reveals they could do more to safeguard against
bacteria hotspots in schools, especially at lunch time.
The 2012 Lysol Back to School Study surveyed 14,000 mothers of five- to
12-year-olds across 14 countries, including 1,000 Canadians.
Eighty-eight per cent of Canadian mothers said they teach their child
good hygiene practices, such as hand washing after using the washroom
and coughing into the sleeve. However, only 53 per cent said their
children are made to wash their hands before eating lunch.
"The survey results reveal that parents need to continue to educate
their kids about the importance of proper hygiene - particularly before
mealtime," said Erica Di Ruggiero, Chair of the Canadian Public Health
Association. "Thorough and regular hand washing with soap and warm
water, and encouraging kids to not put food directly on their desk or
cafeteria table can help to protect children against many illnesses."
Improper storage of packed lunches can also cause foodborne illness.
Less than half (43 per cent) of Canadian moms said they refrigerate
their child's lunch after preparation. Improper food storage puts kids
at an increased risk of coming into contact with bacteria such as E.
coli and salmonella, which could cause serious illness and force kids
to stay home from school. Considering 35 per cent of Canadian moms said
doing well academically is their biggest worry when their child goes
back to school, these findings may be especially significant.
Lunches may also become contaminated from improper disinfection habits
at home. Only 45 per cent of mothers said they clean and disinfect
their child's lunch box daily, increasing the opportunity for bacteria
to grow and foodborne illness to occur.
"A lunch box is supposed to keep kids' food safe, but in some cases, the
lunch box can do the exact opposite," said Dr. Donald Low,
Microbiologist in Chief at Mount Sinai Hospital. "If lunch boxes are
not cleaned daily, small spills and crumbs can lead to bacteria growth
and spread to ready-to-eat food, potentially causing children to get
food poisoning or sick with diarrhea."
Parents should also teach kids about the importance of proper hygiene
while eating lunch at school. In a second part of the Lysol Back to
School Study, seven elementary schools in the United States were
swabbed for bacteria to detect levels of contamination. Results showed
that 44 per cent of eating areas were contaminated. In contrast, the
level of contamination in the washrooms was surprisingly low (3 per
cent), which is likely due to more vigilant cleaning regimes in school
The Global Hygiene Council offers the following tips for guarding
against germs at school this fall:
Get your child into the habit of washing his/her hands regularly,
particularly after visiting the washroom and before eating, both at
home and at school. Remind your child to wash his/her hands before
opening their lunch box.
Teach your child to wipe off the desk or cafeteria table with
disinfectant wipes before eating lunch. This will decrease the chances
of your child ingesting harmful bacteria from commonly-touched
surfaces, which are more likely to be contaminated.
Be aware that moist environments, like the water fountain, can harbor
Hygienic food preparation and storage
Disinfect your child's lunch box every day with disposable disinfectant
wipes, and rinse with warm water.
Wash raw fruit, salad and vegetables thoroughly before packing them in
your child's lunch.
Freshly prepare food each day. There is less of an opportunity for germs
to grow, the shorter the amount of time that food is stored.
Refrigerate your child's lunch box after preparation, and consider using
a freezer pack or cool bag to help keep your child's lunch chilled.