How much bacteria is in your kid's lunchbox? You might be surprised (and grossed out)

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Alex Perez reporting (WABC)

Many parents pack lunchboxes every day, but they may not stop and think about the germs that could be inside.

Lunchboxes may have more than food inside, perhaps a ham sandwich and an apple with a side of bacteria.

So with the help of a fifth-grade class at a suburban Philadelphia school, Good Morning America took a deeper look, swabbing 24 lunch boxes, both inside and out.

The samples were sent off to Dr. Susan Whittier, a microbiologist with New York Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia.

"I didn't think we were going to grow anything," she said. "And I was shocked at how wrong I was."

Every single lunch box tested was growing some sort of bacteria, and most carried the bacteria bacillus, often found in soil.

"It's not unexpected that we would find bacillus on the outside of fruits and vegetables," Dr. Whittier said.

But some included some really nasty bacteria. Four had staph, which can infect cuts, and three had e-coli. Also found were three other bacterias commonly found in bathrooms

"Some of the lunchboxes had as much bacteria as you would expect to find in a train station toilet, and the fact that your food is sitting in there, yeah, it's gross," Dr. Whittier said. "These bacteria were to get into a cut or into your eye by touching your face, they can certainly cause an infection."

But Dr. Whittier says there's an easy fix.

"All you need to do is take a disinfecting wipe or a bleach wipe and clean them out," she said. "And then letting them dry overnight...there will not be an ounce of bacteria found in that
lunchbox the next time you guys come and swab."

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