How to Ensure Your Kitchen Doesn’t Make Your Family Sick
The average American kitchen is a awash in bacteria, and some of those germs are capable of making you violently ill. Most cooks I know would be horrified to learn that the way they’ve been doing things for years may well be putting themselves and their family members at risk of developing serious food-borne illnesses. After all, most of us view cooking as a labor of love—not retribution.
So how do you avoid poisoning your loved ones in the kitchen? Researchers at Kansas State University are ready to help. After their experiments showed that an overwhelming majority of cooks engaged in practices that are guaranteed to spread germs, they developed a set of recommendations to limit the spread of potential contaminants in the kitchen.
“I think these days a lot of people learn on their own how to cook, so they may not know how to be conscious of cross contamination,” said K-State food safety specialist Jeannie Sneed. “People are becoming more aware of the hazards in raw meat products, but they may not know how to prevent those hazards through things like separation or raw and ready-to-eat foods and sanitation. I think it’s fairly easy to avoid cross contamination, but it’s also easy to cause it.”
Here are some ways to avoid spending several uncomfortable days on the commode.
1) Wash your hand thoroughly and often. Don’t just “splash and dash”.
2) Wash your cloth towels—either every day, or after every meal prep involving raw meats.
3) Avoid using sponges. If you must use them, sanitize regularly and thoroughly (soaking in bleach solution, or microwaving for at least 30 seconds are good methods)
4) Use a food thermometer. Cook meats to recommended temperatures—confirmed by using a food thermometer—in order to kill disease-causing germs.
5) Separate the duties of common items like cutting boards, towels, and counter surfaces. For example, don’t cut fruit on the same cutting board that just had raw chicken on it. Cross contamination is all too likely.
6) Think like a microbiologist. Sanitization is paramount.
New students of microbiology are frequently horrified to learn, firsthand, just how many types of bacteria lurk on which common surfaces. “Anytime you’re handling food, especially if it’s a raw meat product, you have to slow down and think about where contamination exists,” said K-State expert, Randall Phebus. “I promote using a little bit of bleach in a bottle of water and to change it regularly,” he said. “While you’re in the kitchen, wipe down frequently used surfaces like the door knobs and handles of the refrigerator. And then after every major meal do a final wipe down of the whole kitchen, which is something most people don’t do.”
K-State Research and Extension website. K-State Research and Extension news page. Accessed Mar. 20, 2015 from: http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/news/story/kitchen_contamination031815.aspx