What’s the Most Germ-Ridden Object in Your Kitchen? It's Not the Sponge


Out of the estimated 48 million instances of foodborne sickness that happen yearly within the U.S., as much as 20% could also be linked to meals ready at residence.1 This means meals you prepare dinner proper in your personal kitchen has the potential to make you sick, and it’s potential to switch these disease-causing germs onto different surfaces close by.

While you could pay attention to the dangers of a grimy sponge used one too many instances — and even how your kitchen sink might function a reservoir of micro organism — when’s the final time you cleaned your spice jars?

It seems these inconspicuous kitchen staples could also be among the many main culprits for cross-contamination, and pose maybe the very best contamination threat in your kitchen.

48% of Spice Containers Were Contaminated

In a research commissioned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service,2 researchers with Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and colleagues analyzed 371 adults cooking turkey burgers in kitchens starting from apartment-style to these in educating areas and meals banks.3

Poultry, together with rooster and turkey, are among the many high sources of Campylobacter-related diseases, with the micro organism inflicting 0.8 million foodborne infections per yr within the U.S.4 As famous within the Journal of Food Protection:5

“According to the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration, 40.5% of nontyphoidal Salmonella diseases have been attributed to Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)-regulated merchandise, whereas 78.8% of all nondairy Campylobacter diseases have been attributed to FSIS-regulated merchandise that features, in descending order, rooster, turkey, different meat or poultry, beef, pork, and recreation (0.6%).

Clearly, improper dealing with of uncooked poultry, reminiscent of insufficient cooking, poor hand washing, and cross-contamination of ready-to-eat (RTE) meals within the residence, can lead to the event of foodborne sickness from such pathogens.”

To decide simply how prevalent cross-contamination is on kitchen surfaces throughout strange meal preparation, the researchers requested contributors to arrange a meal of uncooked floor turkey patties with seasoning and a prepackaged salad. The meat was inoculated with a bacteriophage referred to as MS2 to function a tracer all through the kitchens.

The topics didn’t know their meals security behaviors have been being scrutinized till after the meal was already ready. The researchers then swabbed quite a lot of frequent surfaces, together with sink faucet handles, kitchen utensils and spice containers. Surprisingly, the handles of sink taps turned out to be least contaminated, whereas spice containers have been probably the most.

About 48% of the spice containers have been contaminated with MS2 — considerably greater than most different kitchen surfaces examined, which generally had contamination frequencies of lower than 20%.6 Cutting boards and trash can lids have been the No. 2 and No. 3 most contaminated objects. According to review coauthor Donald Schaffner, a distinguished professor within the Department of Food Science at Rutgers, in a information launch:7

“In addition to extra apparent surfaces like chopping boards, rubbish can lids and fridge handles, right here’s one thing else that you should take note of if you’re making an attempt to be clear and sanitary in your kitchen. Our analysis reveals that any spice container you contact if you’re getting ready uncooked meat may get cross-contaminated. You’ll wish to take heed to that in or after meal preparation.

… We have been stunned as a result of we had not seen proof of spice container contamination earlier than. Most analysis on the cross-contamination of kitchen surfaces attributable to dealing with of uncooked meat or poultry merchandise has targeted on kitchen chopping boards or faucet handles and has uncared for surfaces like spice containers, trash bin lids and different kitchen utensils.

This makes this research and related research from members of this group extra complete than earlier research.”

What Other Kitchen Surfaces Have the Most Germs?

Bacteria are nearly all over the place, and so they’re not at all times trigger for alarm. However, when washing dishing be cautious of reusing sponges too many instances, as research repeatedly rely them as among the many most contaminated kitchen objects.

In a research performed in 10 U.S. kitchens, 67% of sponges examined constructive for fecal coliforms, whereas 33% contained E. coli.8 Other analysis discovered Salmonella in 15.4% of sponge samples, whereas a hygiene research revealed kitchen sponges had the second highest load of coliforms — solely drain traps have been greater.9 As famous in BMC Public Health:10

“During cleansing meals residues could adhere to the sponge floor and damp websites reminiscent of sink areas can act as additional microbial reservoirs that may contaminate the sponges throughout their use. Subsequent poor dealing with, storage or improper disinfection of kitchen sponges will result in additional microbial development at room temperature.

Consequently, kitchen sponges are a significant supply of cross-contamination as they’ll transmit foodborne pathogens, infectious brokers and spoilage inflicting microorganisms to meals contact surfaces.”

In one other research, researchers analyzed 14 used sponges and located 45 billion microbes per sq. centimeter.11,12 Dish sponges harbor the most important variety of E. coli and different fecal micro organism within the common residence, doubtless as a result of they don’t seem to be changed as they need to. Quite a few research have confirmed kitchen sponges include the very best variety of micro organism on family merchandise.13

Can Kitchen Sponges Be Cleaned?

Both sponges and brushes used for dish washing are usually contaminated with nonpathogenic micro organism, though the brushes contained decrease ranges in a single research.14 Further, when brushes have been contaminated with Salmonella and allowed to dry in a single day, the micro organism died extra quickly than in sponges.

“The ends in the current research indicated that cleansing utensils that dried between use would have decrease numbers of micro organism together with pathogens,” the researchers defined, and urged utilizing brushes, which dry extra simply between makes use of, in lieu of sponges. They additionally said you possibly can assist stop Salmonella development in sponges by:15

  • Changing the sponge when it’s worn
  • Not storing the sponge within the sink

According to the USDA, microwaving sponges correctly might also kill as much as 99.99999% of micro organism, whereas working them by means of the dishwasher kills 99.9998%.16 If you do put your sponge in your microwave, make certain it doesn’t include any metallic supplies.

Michigan State University additionally advises the sponge be fully moist if you do it, because it might catch hearth or explode within the course of if it is not.17 The moist sponge ought to be positioned on excessive for one minute and left to chill for as much as quarter-hour so you aren’t getting burned.

What Other Kitchen Surfaces Have the Most Germs?

Cutting boards are one other main offender with regards to harboring harmful micro organism. Experts advocate having at the least two chopping boards, one for meals safely eaten uncooked, reminiscent of fruit and veggies, and the second particularly for chopping uncooked meat, poultry and fish.

Surfaces you utilize to cut your meals could harbor micro organism together with E. coli and Salmonella. Since plastic chopping boards have been simpler to sanitize, they have been usually considered safer. That was till the Nineteen Eighties when a University of California Davis researcher investigated and located though they’re simpler to sanitize, chopping usually nicks the plastic, giving micro organism a spot to cover.18

Wood could also be more durable to sanitize, nevertheless it doesn’t nick as simply. Further, when wooden, plastic and chrome steel surfaces have been in contrast, Campylobacter survived the longest on plastic.19

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends washing your chopping board in scorching soapy water after every use and permitting it to fully air dry earlier than placing it away. Bamboo chopping boards are tougher and fewer porous than wooden, take up little moisture and resist scarring from knives. Importantly, substitute your worn boards as they develop hard-to-clean grooves.20

Your kitchen sink can be more likely to be a supply of contamination. In one research, contributors ready breakfast utilizing uncooked sausage, eggs and a fruit salad made with cantaloupe. After preparation, the kitchen sink was the floor most frequently contaminated, with 34% discovered as such. Perhaps in consequence, 26% of the cut-up cantaloupe examined was additionally contaminated, as it might have been positioned within the soiled sink for laundry.21

Chicken Is Particularly Prone to Contamination

The kinds of meals you deliver into your own home additionally play a task in contamination threat. Chicken from concentrated feeding operations (CAFO) continues to be among the many most problematic meals, with about 1 in 25 packages of rooster on the grocery retailer contaminated with salmonella.22

In New Zealand, Michael Baker, a public well being researcher and professor at University of Otago, is urging the implementation of a “tobacco-style” warning label on all uncooked rooster gadgets, informing buyers in regards to the well being dangers concerned. “It’s probably the most hazardous factor you possibly can take into your kitchen,” he says.23

Recent research have additionally conclusively demonstrated {that a} majority of urinary tract infections (UTIs) are literally attributable to publicity to contaminated rooster.24 In quick, it’s doubtless that UTI-causing E. coli could also be launched to your physique from the meals you eat, specifically CAFO rooster, in addition to pork and beef.

One research concerned 2,460 rooster, pork and turkey samples bought from massive retail shops in Flagstaff, Arizona, almost 80% of which have been discovered to include E. coli.25 The researchers additionally examined blood and urine samples from individuals who visited a significant medical heart within the space, discovering E. coli in 72.4% of these recognized with a UTI.

Washing Your Hands May Help

To scale back your threat of cross-contamination within the kitchen, easy handwashing may be very efficient. Research reveals that individuals who tried handwashing or accomplished extra handwashing steps considerably decreased their threat of cross-contamination.26 Even washing arms for 5 to eight.99 seconds was related to considerably decreased threat.

Given the findings of the featured research, you’ll additionally wish to completely wash your spice containers as nicely — and keep away from dealing with them if you happen to’ve simply touched uncooked rooster. However, resist the urge to seize an antibacterial cleaner to take action, as such merchandise contribute to the event of antibiotic resistance. Instead, clear your kitchen utilizing pure cleansers.

Oregano oil is one such product that has pure antibacterial results on human tissue and your kitchen counters. In one research,27 researchers discovered oregano oil is efficient towards three gram destructive and two gram constructive micro organism. Including oregano important oil in your do-it-yourself cleansing merchandise is straightforward, straightforward and an efficient technique of killing pathogens with out placing your well being in danger.


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