How to Prevent Germs from Spreading in Your Kitchen

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Your kitchen utensils and tools can easily spread germs and bacteria in your kitchen.  Researchers from the University of Georgia experimented with the different types of fruits and vegetables and contaminated them with salmonella and E. coli.  They used knives and graters to cut and shred these contaminated vegetables, and then used the same tools on other produce.

They’ve discovered that bacteria were spread in varying degrees from the one produce to another through the contaminated tools.  Marilyn Erickson, an associate professor of the university’s department of food science and technology, said that some vegetables produce higher contamination than other vegetables.  For instance, tomatoes have a higher contamination of knives than cut strawberries.

“We don’t have an accurate answer as to why there are differences between the different produce groups. But we do know that once a pathogen gets on the food, it's difficult to remove," she said in a news release.

Unfortunately, people aren’t aware that this happens.  They are not aware that their kitchen utensils can spread bacteria from one food to another.  It is important to know how to prevent the contamination and the spread of bacteria in your kitchen.

Different Sources of Contamination

Viruses and bacteria can cause the flu, colds, and other foodborne diseases.  They can be spread by hand-to-hand or hand-to-food contact.  You can get hepatitis A, noroviruses, or staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria by handling contaminated food.  People who suffer from any of these diseases can pass on the bacteria or virus to you.

Raw meats, fish, poultry can carry harmful bacteria like Escherichia coli, an organism that is found in uncooked meat like a hamburger.  This is a common cause of foodborne diseases.  This causes hemolytic uremic syndrome, a disease that is deadly to kids and older adults.

Chicken, turkey, and fowl can carry salmonella and campylobacter. These are bacteria that can cause cramping, diarrhea, and fever.  The meat may be contaminated with toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that is dangerous to pregnant women and her baby.

Seafood like clams, oysters, and other shellfish may be contaminated with bacteria that can cause diarrhea.  They can also carry hepatitis A.

Cheese may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a strain of bacteria that can cause miscarriage or harm the fetus.  This may be found in soft cheese like brie or imported cheeses.  It can grow in the refrigerator at a 40°F temperature.

Vegetables and fruits can carry all sorts of bacteria depending on where they were grown or how they were processed.

Kitchen items that are easily contaminated with bacteria and other foodborne diseases include:

  • Can openers
  • Cutting boards
  • Countertops
  • Dishrags, towels, sponges, scrubbers
  • Garbage disposals
  • Sink drains
  • Refrigerators
  • Food processors, blenders and other complicated appliances

How to Disinfect Gadgets

It is important that you wash your hands before eating, preparing food, handling food, or cleaning up.  Outside the kitchen, you also need to wash your hands after you use the bathroom, cleaning after pets, caring for a sick person, or handling anything that could cause contamination.

Use soap and water to clean your hands.  Wash your palms, especially the top surfaces.  Wash between your fingers and continue up your wrist.  Plain soaps are the best when it comes to cleaning your hands.

You’d think that antibacterial soaps are better than regular ones, but there is no definitive proof that they clean germs better than regular soap.  Here are some tips for proper hand washing:

  • Use soap and warm running water.
  • Make sure to lather your hands well.
  • Wash the entire surface, especially between your fingers, back of your hands, under your fingernails and wrists.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds.  You can ask your children to sing their ABCs or the entire length of the song ‘Happy Birthday’ while washing your hand.
  • Rinse well.
  • Make sure to wash your hands before and after using the bathroom.
If soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol.  Apply the gel or alcohol to the palm of your hand.  Rub your hands together thoroughly. Rub it over the surface of your hands and fingers until they’re dry.

Here are some tips to help you minimize germ exposure in your kitchen:

1. Waste Disposal
Get foot-operated bins for your home.  These things reduce the risk of you picking up germs when you lift the lid of your garbage bin.  Make sure to wash your hands after handling garbage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Can Openers

Whether they are hand-held or electric, they need to be cleaned after every use.  After cleaning, make sure to wipe the can openers with a bleach solution or disinfectant.  Allow them to air dry.



3. Cutting Boards

Keeping separate cutting boards for different food products is important.  Use one board for meat and a different one for fruits and vegetables.  Make sure to clean your cutting boards after every use.  Your cutting board should be wiped with a bleach solution, and let it air dry.  Rinse the board with clear water to remove any bleach residue.

 

 


4. Countertops

Clean your countertops thoroughly.  Wipe them with a bleach solution or disinfectant.  Let them air dry.

5. Dishrags, sponges, and scrubbers.  

These things can get highly contaminated with germs and bacteria.  Avoid using a sponge in the kitchen.  Use a dishcloth instead.  After using one, rinse well and let it air dry.  If you’ve used it to wipe the floors or in general cleaning, throw it in the laundry and use a clean one.  Metal or plastic scrubbers need to be washed in your dishwasher.  Otherwise, rinse them thoroughly and remove all food residue.  Soak them in a disinfectant for 10 minutes.



6. Sink Drains

Pour a cup of hot water into the drain.  Let it soak up the heat for at least a minute, and then pour a cup of undiluted chlorine bleach.  Let the solution stand overnight. You need to do this every couple of weeks to help sanitize the kitchen and keep odor down.  This will also help prevent your drain from clogging.

7. Refrigerators and Complex Appliances

You need to clean your fridge periodically.  Wipe it with a bleach solution after cleaning.  Throw out expired, moldy and decayed leftovers.  If there are spills, clean them immediately.

When it comes to complicated appliances like your food processors, coffee maker, blender, and eggbeater, the easiest way to clean them is to use the dishwasher.  However, you need to remove visible food items from the crevices and recesses of these appliances.

 

 

Image Credit:
Foodservice Education & Resources via foodservicewarehouse.com
Cook's Thesaurus: Poultry via foodsubs.com
Not As Clean As You Think via htekidsnews.com
Can Opener via en.wikipedia.org
Which is The Best Cutting Board? via kitchenwareworld.com
Dish Cloth via teezeetextile.com
Food Processor via askville.amazon.com

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