Brown-bagging? Go to the fridge before your desk

Eating at your desk could make you sick.

A new survey from the American Dietetic Assn. has found that nearly a third of those who bring their lunch to the office don't refrigerate it. Worse still, about four-fifths of them leave their lunch at room temperature for more than three hours -- ample time for those leftovers, salads, fish dishes or meat-and-cheese sandwiches to go bad.

And although office parties allow co-workers to share some fun, they may also be sharing the spoilage. In a third of offices, party foods and meeting leftovers sit out all day or until they're finished. Pity the latecomers who get there last and later come down with food poisoning.

"After two hours of being left out, this is when bacterial growth really begins to take off and when things get dangerous," said Lola O'Rourke, a Seattle nutrition consultant and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Assn. "Food-borne illness is often difficult to diagnose, so it's critical for people to control what they can."

The warnings come from a survey jointly commissioned by the association and ConAgra Foods as part of their food safety education campaign.

The online survey of 1,024 randomly selected office workers was released Sept. 30.


-- Jane E. Allen

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