When talking about germs and diseases caused by them, we concentrate more on maintaining cleanliness in bathrooms; however, the kitchen is the place that harbors the majority of the germs in your household. Kitchen germs can reside in all the places you think are clean ranging from the sponges used to wipe and clean countertops, to the drain, dish rags, the cutting boards, and the kitchen counter. These germs can cause various types of highly contagious infections such as common cold, flu, and enteritis, which can spread like wildfire in your house. When you touch any of the contaminated items with your hands, these germs are transferred to your body through your hands causing illness. I have wrote an article detailing things you should know but don’t that make us sick.
Kitchen Germ Facts
- Your kitchen sink is squirming with germs; there are 100,000 times more germs present here than in your lavatory / bathroom.
- The sponge you use in your kitchen is another trap for germs; thousands of bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella can be present per square inch of a used kitchen sponge.
- Cutting or chopping boards used in kitchen are another major source of kitchen germs; there are 200% more fecal bacteria present on kitchen cutting boards than on a toilet seat.
- Bacteria have the capability to divide every 20 minutes; in less than 24 hours, greater than eight million bacterial cells can be produced from a single bacterial cell.
- Raw meat is also a source of kitchen germs that cause a large number of cases of food poisoning; campylobacter bacteria are present in greater than 50% of the raw chicken.
- Putting hot food in your refrigerator results in improper cooling and such food can cause food poisoning as the temperature in the middle of the food takes a long time to drop creating a perfect environment for the growth of bacteria.
- Kitchen germs are also present on the trash cans, doorknobs, faucets, stove handles, and refrigerator handles.
Ways To Maintain Kitchen Hygiene
Though, kitchen contains more germs than present in any other place in your house, maintaining little hygiene can ensure that your kitchen remains germ free.
- Used kitchen sponges contain the highest number of germs. The germs reside in the moist, micro-cervices of a sponge, which makes disinfection difficult. Using these dirty sponges only transfers germs from one place to another. Hence, it is recommended to replace your kitchen sponge regularly. According to Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai in New York City, “Wet your sponge and then pop it in the microwave for two minutes to eliminate the germs that lurk inside the crevices.” (http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/germs-in-kitchen)
- Germs also harbor in the dishrags you use in your kitchen to wipe the counter tops and utensils. Like sponges, wiping utensils and countertops with dirty dishrags will spread more germs, instead of removing them. To ensure that your dishrags are germ free, replace them at least once a week. Dry them in between use, as bacteria needs moisture for growth. Wash your dishrags often, preferably in a washing machine and dry on high heat.
- Disinfectant sprays or wipes should be used on trash cans, door knobs, refrigerator handles, cupboard handles, faucets and stove handles several times a day to kill the germs present on these surfaces. This is important because when you touch these surfaces the germs get transferred to your hands and then to your body. Avoid using a telephone in the kitchen and in case you are using it, wipe it too with a disinfectant wipe.
- Cutting boards are teaming with germs. The cuts and cracks in the kitchen cutting boards are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria. Moreover, cutting boards are often not disinfected. It is recommended to frequently disinfect your cutting board. Moreover, use separate cutting boards for cutting raw meat and vegetables.
- To get rid of the bacteria living in the kitchen sink and drain, it is very important to disinfect them regularly. You can use baking soda and a tooth brush to clean around the drains.
- Another very important way to maintain hygiene in the kitchen is to wash your hands frequently during the day using hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds, but even washing for a minute is not unheard of. Hands should be washed every time you go to the toilet, before and after preparing a meal, before and after eating a meal and after touching something that you think can be contaminated with germs such as a trash can, dishrag etc.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Cleaning and disinfecting are two different things. During cleaning the germs are removed from the surface, whereas during disinfecting the germs are actually destroyed. Cleaning does not always mean that the surface is free of germs and in some cases germs can survive on surfaces for many hours and days. Disinfectants are products that contain ingredients to destroy or kill the germs. Disinfectants are registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While choosing a disinfectant, check the label of the product to ensure that it is a disinfectant with a proper EPA registration number.
The CDC recommends that all kitchen counters and surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected before, during and after preparing meals. It is especially important when you are preparing meat and poultry.
While using a disinfectant it is important to follow the directions mentioned on the product label.
Germs may thrive on cleaning towels and dishrags; hence, it is recommend using paper towels for cleaning counters and other surfaces. These paper towels can be thrown away. You can also use disposable disinfectant wipes to both clean and disinfect the counters and surfaces.
Food Handling And Preparing
To prevent food borne illnesses, practice four easy and simple steps to food safety
1. Clean your hands and surfaces on a regular basis.
2. Keep different kinds of foods separately to avoid cross contamination. For example, raw meat, poultry etc should be kept separated from vegetables and fruits. Similarly, use separate cutting boards for cutting raw meat and vegetables.
3. Foods should be cooked to proper temperatures, so as to destroy the harmful bacteria that may cause illness.
4. Foods should be refrigerated promptly or quickly as the growth of harmful bacteria is slowed down in cold temperature.
5. Properly store foods separately in the refrigerator. Meats should be separated from fruits / vegetables. Do not leave meat in your fridge for long periods of time, the bacteria will still multiply.
Remember, your kitchen is the place, which harbors most of the disease causing germs. However, by making kitchen hygiene a part of your daily life, you can keep yourself and your family healthy and disease free.
Dr. Ritu Goel is a certified nutritionist and a management professional. She has over 13 years of experience in healthcare industry. She is currently working as a physician and a dietician in a private clinic.