Sometimes an unexpected crisis or meeting at work consumes our lunchtime. Or we forget a sack lunch in our hurry to get out the door. Having food on hand to satisfy the 10 o clock hunger pains is a good idea. Care should be given to the area to make sure that it is free from foodborne bacteria where the food is eaten.
Alice Henneman, MS, RDN, from University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, shares a classic study on food storage in desks.
Food storage may attract pests to your work area. A classic study (2001) by University of Arizona Microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba and funded by Clorox, reported an office desk may contain 400 times more germs than an office toilet seat. Consider — cleaning crews seldom touch office desktops, office phones, etc. Coughing and sneezing may increase the germ population. Crumbs on desktops may attract additional bacteria. If you share a work space with someone, some cold and flu viruses can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours according to Gerba.
If your office already has a problem with pest infestation, it might be best to avoid setting your desk up as a feeding station. Plus, if food spills over into a desk drawer that isn’t thoroughly cleaned, the drawer can become a breeding ground for bacteria or what Gerba would call a “bacteria cafeteria.” Higher building temperatures when offices are closed also may contribute to food spoilage in a desk drawer. If you do eat at your desk, it’s a good idea to periodically clean your desktop with a disinfecting wipe.
If you do store food in your desk drawer, plan to keep a limited stock of foods. You’ll have fewer problems if you opt for individually wrapped, single-serving portions. If your office gets hot when your work facility is closed, be aware food loses quality and deteriorates faster when stored at higher temperatures.
That’s why you may be better off carrying a small amount of emergency munchies in a briefcase, handbag or backpack.
As with a desk drawer, it’s better to carry single servings of shelf-stable foods. A banana stored in a handbag left in a warm car over the weekend can be bad news! Perishable foods such as yogurt; cut fruit and vegetables; and cheese should remain at room temperature no longer than 2 hours without refrigeration. If you purchased a food from a refrigerated section at the store, you should keep it in the refrigerator at work or home and not in a briefcase, handbag or backpack.