When it comes to our kitchens, they can be one of the germiest places in the home. In a 2011 germ study conducted by NSF International, 22 families were asked to swab 30 places in their homes. The study revealed that three of the top five germ hot spots in the home actually were in the kitchen.
Fortunately, there are three simple steps you can take to help you have a safer kitchen.
Proper hand washing is essential to help reduce the spread of illness, especially during food preparation activities.
To properly wash your hands, it's important to first thoroughly wet hands with warm water (not cold). Then, apply liquid or clean bar soap. Rub your hands vigorously together for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing all surfaces thoroughly including between fingers and under nails. Then rinse well and dry. Keep in mind that it's the soap combined with the scrubbing that helps to dislodge and remove germs and dirt.
Kitchens can be one of the most dangerous places in the home because of the potential presence of bacteria on raw foods. In addition to washing hands before beginning food preparation, wash your hands after handling any raw food product so that you don't transfer bacteria from one food to the next.
Dishes and utensils need to be thoroughly washed with hot soapy water and rinsed after using. Use cutting boards made from nonporous materials and wash them thoroughly after using and when switching from one food product to the next.
Kitchen sponges and dish rags generally tend to be a hot spot for germs. To help reduce germs, place wet sponges in the microwave for two minutes once per day and replace often - every two weeks or more as needed. Dishcloths, towels and rags should be sanitized by washing on the clothes washer's hot water cycle with bleach. They should be replaced every 1-2 days.
Countertops should be thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water and rinsed before preparing food and again after finishing food preparation. Use only cleaners designed and tested for use in food preparation areas, as others may leave harmful residues.
Improper handling of foods can create an environment perfect for cross-contamination. To avoid this problem, keep all work areas clean and use separate surfaces for different types of foods.
Separate raw foods from cooked or ready-to-eat foods, both when shopping as well as at home. Place raw meats in plastic containers or bags and store them near the bottom of the refrigerator to keep juices from dripping on to other foods. Ready-to-eat foods and produce items should be stored on upper shelves above uncooked foods.