Where the germs hide in your kitchen

NSF International is a not-for-profit organization that works globally (they have an office in São Paulo) to help improve public health and the environment. They are particularly strong in developing international standards for food and water safety.

Part of their work is research, and two years ago they released an important study which identified the areas in people’s homes that harbored the most germs. Most people believed the bathroom to be the dirtiest room, but in fact, the kitchen had the highest concentrations, and posed the biggest risk to personal health.

The NSF just released a new report which looked more closely at people’s kitchens, identifying the areas that harbored the most bacteria, yeast, and mold. The main bacteria they tested for were Salmonella, E. coli, and Staph.

These organisms are notorious for causing “food poisoning” which, while rarely fatal, causes very inconvenient symptoms. The very youngest and oldest people, pregnant women, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to suffer severe symptoms and complications.

Today let’s list some of the findings from the two NSF studies so you can pay special attention to these areas. While most people think that food poisoning only occurs from unclean restaurants, twenty percent of cases occur from improper cleaning of vegetables, meats, and surfaces at home. Here are the highlights:

1. Kitchen sponges

It is ironic that the item people use most for cleaning also is the worst as far as contamination. Sponges are full of holes that trap bacteria, and are not typically sanitized regularly. They often sit in the sink, also full of bacteria, and if they are constantly wet, they are the perfect breeding ground for food-borne disease.

2. Kitchen sink

The typical kitchen sink (since it has food contact) has 100,000 times the bacteria count of the bathroom sink, so keep it clean and don’t let the sponge sit there all day.

3. In the refrigerator, the vegetable and meat compartments

Remove these compartments and wash with a (clean) sponge and warm water with detergent, and dry with a clean cloth (kitchen cloths also ranked high on germ contamination). Clean up any spilled meat juices, which are notorious for food poisoning.

3. The rubber gasket in the blender

Most people or maids do not take the time to dissemble the blender to wash it, but the rubber seal is a huge source of contamination. Take the time to take the blender apart to clean it.

4. Can opener

Put it in the dishwasher if you can, or wash after each use, removing any food residue around the cutting blade.

5. Rubber spatulas

Again, wash in a dishwasher if you can, or in hot soupy water.

6. Wooden knife storage block

The NSF recommends this be washed and sanitized monthly, first cleaning out any residue in the holes, then using a dilute bleach solution, even immersing the whole block, then rinse and dry well. Then insert only clean, dry knives into the block.

7. Refrigerator ice and water dispenser

These areas need special attention. Read your manual for cleaning recommendations or see the details in the NSF report, which recommends cleaning with a vinegar solution.

Finally, while today we just covered the kitchen, we want to mention an item from the bathroom that the NSF reports to be the number one source of bacteria in the house: the toothbrush holder!

Happy cleaning!

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)