|A new study from Kansas State University has identified some of the top places germs may be lurking in your kitchen, and the results might be surprising: Cloth towels and electronic devices topped the list, coming in above both cooking utensils and hands.
In order to observe food prep habits and gauge the effectiveness of educational messages regarding food safety, the research team divided 123 participants into two groups. One group was educated on how to prevent contamination of surfaces and cooking utensils, while the other was not. The participants were all then recorded cooking a meal including meat and a fruit salad. The researchers put a non-harmful bacterial organism on the meat so they would be able to trace contamination after the meals had been prepared.
The researchers found that towels harbored the greatest concentration of the trace bacteria after the participants finished cooking; reviewing the recordings revealed that many people touched towels, washed their hands and then used the same towels again, thereby re-contaminating them.
Cell phones and tablets used during cooking (to look up a recipe, for example), can also become contaminated, the researchers found.
“Research is needed on what motivates consumers to change behaviors to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and what messages have been effective,” the report’s authors write in their discussion of the results.
Food safety issues extend outside, too, something that’s particularly important to remember heading into grilling season. Much discussion over the health of grilled foods has to do with the debate over propane vs. charcoal grills, but many grillers forget that the utensils and platters they use to bring raw meats out to the grill cannot be safely used to serve the food after it is cooked.
The full study has been published in the journal Food Protection Trends and is available for free online.