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Kitchen bacteria – where it grows and how to fight it

September 22, 2016

The majority of people don’t realise that the most germ-ridden place in their household is the kitchen. Due to the preparation of raw food products, the kitchen makes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

Unlike restaurants, home kitchens are not formally examined by health inspectors and most of us do not have formal training in how to manage food properly. For this reason, it’s important for us to be aware of the potential dangers lurking in our kitchens and to be cautious with how we prepare our food.

Did you know

According to microbiologist, Dr. Charles Gerba, A.K.A “Dr. Germ” people don’t pay enough attention to the germs in their kitchen. He says that:

  • Half of kitchen surfaces are contaminated with dangerous levels of coliforms (bacteria in faeces)
  • 25% of draining boards, 30% of microwaves and 40% of kettles are also contaminated
  • These bacteria can cause gastrointestinal diseases
  • “In most cases, it’s safer to make a salad on a toilet seat than it is to make one on a cutting board”, and
  • “There’s more E. coli in a kitchen sink than in a toilet after you flush it”

Where bacteria grows and how to fight it

  • 1. Sponges and Dish Cloths

Out of all objects in your home, more E. coli and other fecal-based bacteria live on sponges and dish cloths. As these items get wet and stay moist, they serve as an ideal environment for bacteria to grow.

To avoid the spread of nasty bacteria replace dishcloths every week. Sponges can be cleaned by throwing them into the dishwasher or microwaving on high for 30 seconds.

  • 2. Sinks

Like sponges and dish cloths, sinks are a great place for E. coli to live and grow. The constant exposure to non-sterile tap water allows for bacteria to build up over time, forming a wall of pathogens. Clean the sink basin by wiping it down regularly with a quality disinfectant solution.

  • 3. Cutting Boards

As people disinfect their bathrooms more often than their kitchens, Dr. Germ suggests that there is 200 times more fecal bacteria from raw meat on the average cutting board than a toilet seat. The cuts left into these boards create small contours where bacteria can grow rapidly.

Without cleaning and sanitising your cutting board correctly, raw meat and poultry can leave behind salmonella and campylobacter. These bacteria are two of the most common causes of food-borne illness.

To avoid potential illness, use different cutting boards for different types of food products. For example, use one cutting board for raw meat and a different cutting board for preparing vegetables. This way it is easier to avoid cross-contamination. Boards can be cleaned with a kitchen disinfectant or put in a dishwasher – this should be done daily.

  • 4. Refrigerator Bottom Shelves

With moisture and condensation dripping from upper shelves, the bottom shelf of your refrigerator tends to have the most bacteria. Food products placed on the bottom shelf can easily be contaminated by raw meat and poultry defrosting above it.

To avoid cross-contamination, raw meat should be placed on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator and raw produce should be kept in a drawer or crisper. Fridge shelves should be wiped down with a strong disinfectant every two or three weeks.

  • 5. Kitchen Countertops

As a run on effect from sponges, dish cloths and sinks, kitchen countertops tend to be dirtiest near the sink area. When cleaning takes place, sponges and cleaning cloths that are covered in E. coli spread all over the countertops.

Use a kitchen disinfectant to clean the countertop and dry it off using a paper towel. This way the moisture and bacteria can be absorbed and thrown away.

Next steps

Whether it’s in a restaurant or in your home kitchen, Food Safety should be taken seriously. Understanding Food Safety and how to handle food correctly is vital if we wish to avoid the spread of food-borne illness. Our accredited online training courses have no prerequisites, no hidden fees and no classroom attendance. Food Safety First provides students with everything they need to know about safe food practices.