Nothing is safe enough for children anymore. Not crawling -- as evidenced by the existence of "baby kneepads." Not old-fashioned playgrounds; that's why so few of them have seesaws and merry-go-rounds anymore. And now, it turns out, not even a home-packed sack lunch is safe enough. At least, that's how the media reported last month's big non-story: "9 out of 10 preschoolers' lunches reach unsafe temperatures."
That was the MSNBC headline on a story that went on to explain, "Unsafe, as the researchers defined it, was anything that sat for more than two hours between 39 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit."
So basically, it sounds as if "unsafe" equals any food that sat for more than two hours in room temperature almost anywhere on earth (and possibly Mars). Despite the fact that most of us adults went to school carrying sandwiches we kept in our clammy lockers from arrival till lunchtime -- and are alive today -- this became a huge news story, carried by TV stations and newspapers across the country, all thrilled to have a new thing to warn parents about.
That is, even though, as it turns out, the lukewarm lunches don't mean that kids are actually getting sick. That was one of the fine points much further down in the stories, after the dire IS YOUR CHILD'S LUNCH UNSAFE?-type headlines.
So, what is the point, we should start worrying about sack lunches that never have been shown to hurt children just because a rather strange study of a non-problem found that there COULD be a problem if only there were one?
And yet the press could not stop itself: "Should parents bag the brown bag?" asked the once-unflappable Boston Globe, as if one study proving something that every parent personally has witnessed as non-threatening should now throw us all for a loop. It's like that old joke, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own lying eyes?"
Yes, I suppose it is better NOT to serve lukewarm yogurt and listless lettuce. But when, as the researchers determined, "just 1.6 percent of the perishable yogurts, cheese slices, carrot sticks, bologna and other items were at the proper temperature when pre-schoolers were ready to eat them," it appears that 98 percent of everything kids eat from home is a dire threat, even if their parents packed their lunches with an ice pack. Yes! Forty percent of the 700 lunches surveyed contained a lovingly packed (and apparently useless) ice thingy.
Not to go to the old "we ate curdled pudding and we LIKED it" saw, but now parents are being asked to transport their kids' lunches thusly, according to the Globe:
The researchers recommend brown bagging it and transporting the bag to the day care center in a small cooler filled with ice packs. Parents should then take the brown bag out of the cooler and put it directly into the center's refrigerator -- hopefully there is one and it's set at the right temperature.
Excuse me. Isn't that the procedure formerly reserved for ORGAN TRANSPLANTS?
And by the way, doesn't this advice presuppose that no kids are walking to school with their parents? Because who is going to lug along a cooler stuffed with ice packs?
My friends, this is how society changes. Not with a cataclysmic coup, but with thousands of little "tips" that trade one kind of lifestyle (walking to school, dropping a kid off) with another (driving to school, coming inside, carefully overseeing the lunch transfer).
And we wonder why parents feel so overwhelmed with everything they "have" to do and all the expectations for their constant involvement. When even a sack lunch is now a deathly danger, parents must be ever on guard against every formerly safe thing.
On the upside, if they ever DO have to transfer a heart or a liver, I guess they'll have had plenty of practice.