While Cleaning, Don’t Forget This Surprising Trouble-Spot (It’s Actually the Germiest Thing in Your Kitchen!)
A new study reveals the one (often overlooked) spot that holds the most germs.
Today, more than ever, we are all a little more self-conscious about germs. Hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes—even UV lights—have become regular popular purchases for consumers every week.
Surely with all of the ailments this winter has brought, people are cleaning their hands more regularly as part of measures to protect themselves and their families. The last few years have greatly affected how people clean their hands to stop the spread of disease, but how does that bear comparison with how well they clean their homes?
Even if you feel confident in your cleaning, you might be surprised that there is a small—completely overlooked—spot in your kitchen, according to a Nov. 2022 study. And once you see what you are missing, you can’t unsee it.
One thing's for sure—you will definitely make sure to clean this spot in the future!
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Nov. 2022 Journal of Food Protection Study
Nearly 48 million people get sick each year from foodborne illnesses and one in five are caused at home. Cross-contamination, unclean counters and improper handling of foods can all contribute to some individuals getting food poisoning.
Cleaning your kitchen is vital to food safety, and after a recent study from the Journal of Food Protection was released, it is clear that a huge number of people could avoid getting sick by making sure they don’t forget to clean everywhere in their kitchen.
Now you are probably thinking, “What’s left to clean?”, and you are running down your checklist. The sinks, counters, microwave other gadgets get scrubbed down often, so what could possibly be getting missed?
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What’s the Germiest Part of the Kitchen?
Spice jars are actually the germiest spot in the kitchen!
As presented in a Nov. 2022 study from the Journal of Food Protection, spice jars, surprisingly, hold the most germs in the kitchen. The study showed 48 percent of spice jars studied had shown evidence of cross-contamination, whereas counters only showed 20 percent.
Think about it for a minute. It makes sense.
You grab them initially while handling raw meat to season it, then maybe grab it again while the meat is cooking and add a little more to it, before putting it back in the cupboard or in its holder.
Did you wash your hands in between the first grabs of handling the meat? Did you wash the spice jar in between uses? Probably not.
And then the spice jar goes back into its carousel, or up into the cupboard, all the while the germs are festering. And then you pull out the jar and use it again.
It stands to reason that the germs are just never-ending unless cleaned after each use. How unbelievable that such a tiny item could harvest such a potential danger to the food you are eating!
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How To Practice Food Safety at Home
Practicing food safety is vital to the health of your home and the people living in it. You can actively keep your home in check by practicing just four techniques.
Summarized by these FDA recommendations, all you have to remember are the following steps: clean, separate, cook and chill.
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Four Best Food Safety Steps
1. Clean - Keep your food, hands, counters and cooking tools, containers/lids (including spice jars!) clean.
Hot soapy water is the key to keeping everything clean and sanitary in the kitchen. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, and all of your tools and counters in soapy water too.
Do not wash meat, poultry, fish or eggs.
Rinse fruits and veggies
2. Separate - Work with each individual food item, one at a time. Keep fruits and veggies separate from raw meats and eggs.
Use one cutting board for each of the groups you are cooking with.
Separate items in your shopping cart, bags and fridge too.
3. Cook - Heat is important for killing germs. Once foods get hot, they should stay hot.
Here are food-safe temperatures (a digital thermometer is helpful):
Beef, Pork, Lamb - 145°
Fish - 145°
Ground Beef, Pork, Lamb 160°
Turkey, Chicken, Duck - 165°
4. Chill - After you are done with food, put it in the fridge.
Two hours is the rule for putting food in the fridge or freezer (that includes grocery store runs).
The hotter the temps outside, the less time to get your foods cooled. Anything over 90° reduces your time down to one hour.
You have the ability to drop the rate of cross-contamination in your home. The major takeaway here is to pay attention to each step in handling your food. Make sure to clean up everything you use while cooking your meal—including small, inconspicuous items like those spice jars!—and you will be on your way to making delicious food while significantly reducing the chance of illness.
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Kirchner, M., Everhart, S., Doring, L., Smits, C., Faircloth, J., Duong, M., Goulter, R. M., Goodson, L., Shelley, L., Shumaker, E. T., Cates, S., Bernstein, C., Lavallee, A., Jaykus, L.-A., Chapman, B., & Schaffner, D. (2022). Cross-contamination to surfaces in consumer kitchens with MS2 as a tracer organism in ground Turkey patties. Journal of Food Protection, 85(11), 1594–1603. https://doi.org/10.4315/jfp-22-060
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Food Safety at Home"