Which products keep your kids' lunches cold?

August 23, 2011 3:06:36 PM PDT
Packing your child's school lunch is a great way to save money, but come lunch time, the perishable foods in these lunches may not always be safe to eat. That's according to a recent study that found even with ice packs, 95 percent of the perishable lunch contents were being kept at unsafe temperatures. It's why we tested several products.

Most perishable items should be kept under 40 degrees. But in this study, the average temperature of lunch contents was 62 degrees. So we went in search of an affordable product that will keep your kid's food cold and safe.

With two little ones, Elizabeth Allen worries about her kids' lunches spoiling in their lunch box.

"Their stomachs are pretty sensitive, so if something spoils they can get sick very easily," Allen said.

Her school even sent out an alert.

"We actually got an email yesterday from the school saying be sure to put an ice pack in their lunch box because it does spoil within just a couple of hours," Allen said.

Many parents use blue ice packs to keep food cool.

"I have the freezer packs, the little ones that have the gels in them that warm up as the day goes on, and then they have an insulated lunch box," parent Lisa Cohen said.

"I pack mine with ice packs from the freezer," another parent said.

With so many products on the market, we had to find out what works and what doesn't. We picked up several items to test, including a Chill It bag for $14.97, the Thermos six-pack reusable bag for a dollar and an Icicle Freeze Pak for 77 cents.

We also picked up an insulated lunch bag made by Zero Degrees for $7.49. The label says "no ice is needed" and promises food stays cold and dry.

We followed directions and recommendations for each product, and after four hours without any refrigeration, we tested the lunch bags' temperatures using an infrared thermometer.

First up is the Chill It bag. Our average reading was 65 degrees. Remember most perishable food should be stored in temperatures less than 40 degrees.

The next product is the Thermos Icicle pack. This tested much better; the average temperature is 55 degrees. The Freeze Pak also had similar results with an average inside temperature of 53 degrees.

Finally, the Zero Degrees bag with what the company calls an "integrated cooling system," was nearly 70 degrees.

The bottom line is none of the products we tested kept our lunch bags colder than 40 degrees. What worked the best were the blue ice packs. They are just a dollar and kept our bags the coldest.


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