Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Surprise Germ Hot Spots in Your Kitchen

You keep the kids' hands out of the cookie bowl, wash all your produce, and regularly scour the counters, but you might be missing the biggest colonies of germs in your kitchen. A new report by NSF International, a non-profit public health and environmental group, hones in on the most germ packed spots in your kitchen and they might surprise you. The group swabbed 14 items in the kitchen of 20 families in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan, checking for colonies of E. coli and salmonella and other bacteria known for causing food-bourne illnesses , and while areas neat freaks harp over like microwave keypads were relatively safe, overlooked spots like refrigerator ice and water dispensers, blender gaskets, and fridge meat and vegetable compartments were teeming with germs. 

Food-bourne illnesses are nothing to sniff at, even in our state of the art kitchens with our sponges,  bleach blasters, and germophobia. Tens of thousands of people will suffer from food-poisoning each year in the UK and several dozens, usually the elderly, young, or immunocompromised, will die.  Avoiding dodgy takeaways and the old E. Coli boogeymen, raw eggs and undercooked meat, won't spare you. Many of those who suffer from food-poisoning will pick it up in their own homes, and from placed their sponges may never have ventured. Leafy vegetables and chicken--home cookgoing mainstays--are responsible for a disproportionate number of cases and they things they touch in the kitchen--utensils, refrigerator compartments--may be the dirtiest places in your kitchen. 

In tests fridge vegetable crispers were found to harbor salmonella and listeria, a bacteria particularly dangerous for pregnant women, and meat compartments were rife with salmonella and e. coli. To properly clean these compartments, remove the draw from the fridge and scrub with a clean sponge and mild detergent and rinse dry in the sink with warm water. Clean monthly and anytime you see any leaked meat juices. To avoid cross-contamination keep products separate: divide raw and unwashed produced into individual bags and keep your raw meats and produce in different drawers or shelves. Cross-contamination doesn't just happen behind the fridge door with the light off. Separate raw meats and produce in the grocery cart, during preparation, and wash any appliances and utensils before using them on another ingredient.

Wherever these foods move across the kitchen, from the knives to the blender, they can leave a trail of germs that, if not scrubbed up, can make anyone who enters the kitchen ill. Love juicing veggies for inventive green smoothies? Make sure you're properly cleaning your blender according to the instructional manual. disassembling all the pieces and washing them separately. The blender gasket, the rubber seal at the base that prevents leaks, was found to be a jungle of itty bitty nasties. Utensils like spatulas also have parts that need to be separated if they're going to be properly cleaned. The space where the handle and the scraper of a spatula fit together can be a little warren of germs if you never scrub it out. And can openers may only come into contact with preserved foods, but if you plunk them right back into the drawer after use without a good wash they can breed and then transmit germs. 

Uncooked vegetables and meats are known culprits of disease but did you know illness can lurk in your kitchen places food never ventures? The moist, dark climates of refrigerator water and ice dispensers were found to house a veritable smorgasbord of micro-organisms, including yeast and mold that can be hazardous for people with allergies. Check your refrigerator manual for guides to cleaning the innards of your fridge and aim to do it twice a year. It may be a hassle to route vinegar through your handy, fridge front water spout, but knowing that convenient glass of water is free of mould? It's worth all the behind the scene tinkering and scrubbing in the world. 

Todays post was written by Jenny Cooper from Monkey.co.uk.  They compare health insurance prices and donate £10 to charity if you buy a policy. You can find Jenny on Twitter

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