Your Kitchen May Not Be as Clean as You Think
You don’t have to be a germophobe to want to avoid the icky and sometimes dangerous bacteria that seem to be lurking everywhere. Going to a public restroom, sitting on an airplane, shopping at the mall, even purses and cellphones, all put us at risk of contamination by a variety of bugs. You probably think, however, that you are at least safe from germs in your own home. Unfortunately, you are likely wrong. According to new research, your kitchen, even if you clean up regularly, might be a huge source of potential infection.
The study, which was conducted at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, found that most household kitchens are in major violation of food-safety practices due to the presence of a range of pathogens and other shortcomings.1 This was determined after investigators paid visits to 100 homes around the Philadelphia area with diverse socioeconomic circumstances to evaluate kitchen cleanliness.
A number of hazards were identified in the kitchens, including the presence of bacteria that can cause foodborne illness, poor food storage methods, and evidence of pests. The researchers tested for various germs and those they found included staphylococcus aureus, salmonella, campylobacter, and listeria. The germs were discovered throughout the kitchens of many residences, but particularly in such areas as inside and outside the refrigerator, on counters, in the sink, and on sponges.
The first “hot spot” is the refrigerator, which was shown to be a cornucopia of germs. In 97 percent of the kitchens assessed, raw meat and poultry were stored incorrectly on a middle or upper shelf where any errant juices could drip onto foods stored below. In 43 percent of the households, refrigerators were also set above the recommended temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, which contributes to the growth of listeria. And both the interiors of the fridges and the exterior door handles were found to be home to all kinds of bacteria.
Another major area of trouble was the sponges and dishcloths in the kitchens. Sponges may be used to get your dishes clean but they are far from clean themselves, with 64 percent harboring pathogens. And in the kitchens that had bacteria on sponges and dishcloths, it was much more likely that counters and other areas tested positive for the presence of germs as well. That’s because sponges spread germs from one surface to another as they are used.
Kitchen sinks were rated as unclean by the researchers in a whopping 82 percent of the homes, even if the rest of the kitchen was relatively dirt-free. What’s more, when fecal bacteria and E. coli were found in a kitchen, it was often in the sink, probably due to the residual dampness.
As far as tools for food preparation, cutting boards were often not cleaned to a satisfactory degree. The scientists rated 23 percent as looking dirty, and 76 percent of them contained cracks or grooves in the surface deep enough to accommodate colonies of bacteria. That’s particularly dangerous when you consider that raw meat or poultry is typically placed on them. (Incidentally, wood cutting boards in general are safer than plastic,2 and bamboo and alder wood offer additional bacteria resistance.)
If any of these scenarios sound familiar to you, you might want to rethink your habits. Unsafe practices in the kitchen can lead to infections that make you sick for days, or worse in older people, small children, and anyone with a compromised immune system. It’s entirely possible that the last time you thought you had a stomach virus or blamed a gastrointestinal issue on a meal you ate at a restaurant, it was in reality a result of contamination that occurred right in your own home. So don’t take shortcuts, and familiarize yourself with all of the methods of proper food handling. And if you do end up with some sort of foodborne illness through a source other than your own kitchen, take natural anti-pathogens and a good colon detox powder shortly after the onset of symptoms to lessen its severity and rebound more quickly.
- 1. Borrusso, Patricia A. and Quinlan, Jennifer J. "Prevalence of Pathogens and Indicator Organisms in Home Kitchens and Correlation with Unsafe Food Handling Practices and Conditions." Journal of Food Protection. April 2017. Accessed 13 May 2017. http://jfoodprotection.org/doi/abs/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-16-354?af=R&code=fopr-site.
- 2. "Which Cutting Board is Safest?" Berkeley Wellness. December 23, 2014. (Accessed 15 May 2017.) http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food-safety/article/which-cutting-board-safest