What can you do to eliminate bugs?
Could your chopping board be giving you a dicky tummy or is your J-cloth spreading salmonella? The kitchen is home to millions of nasty bugs so what can you do to eliminate them?
One in ten of us suffers from food poisoning each year and one of the
reasons for this is poor hygiene in the kitchen.
Bugs too tiny to be
seen nestle in nooks and crannies, on work surfaces and in damp and
dirty cloths, flourishing in the warm, moist conditions of the kitchen.
While some are harmless, others can make us ill - from a mild gastric
upset to something more severe.
The danger zones
The main ways bacteria enter the kitchen is on ourselves, particularly our hands, in raw foods - especially meat - and on pets. But to make us ill it has to get into our food and the main way it does this is by cross-contaminating areas of the kitchen where we prepare food.
‘If you are preparing raw meat and then wipe that surface with a cloth or reuse a knife without washing it thoroughly, then you could easily transfer bacteria to cooked or ready-prepared foods which, when you eat them, could make you ill,' says Jenny Morris, a policy officer with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
According to Morris, the main danger areas are dishcloths, tea towels, chopping boards, other preparation surfaces and places we touch regularly while preparing food, such as taps, fridge doors and waste bins.
‘There are lots of products on the market but you don't need to use that many to keep your kitchen clean,' she says. ‘I'd use hot water and soap, ordinary soap or washing up liquid, depending on what I'm washing, and then, where I'm preparing food, an antibacterial spray to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. You can use a heavier duty cleaner if somewhere is particularly dirty or greasy.’
10 bug busters
- Wash your hands in warm soapy water and dry thoroughly (wet hands spread bacteria more easily) before preparing food, after touching raw meat, touching the rubbish bin or your pet.
- Wash any items used in food preparation, including chopping boards and knives, in very hot water and washing up liquid, before, during and after use.
- Where possible, leave crockery and utensils to drain and air dry. Tea towels can be a source of cross-contamination; if you do use them make sure they dry out after use and change them regularly.
- Use different cloths for different tasks, e.g. washing up and wiping surfaces. Wash in hot, soapy water and allow to dry out before using again. Change J-cloths regularly.
- Keep separate chopping boards for raw meat and for other food preparation and choose thick, hard plastic or marble boards in preference to wood. Cuts in wood or thin plastic harbour germs.
- Wash surfaces with detergent to remove grease and dirt, then use an antibacterial spray to kill any remaining germs and wipe with a paper towel. Bleach washed cloths from time to time to kill bacteria.
- Use a dishwasher. The very high temperature will kill bacteria on plastic chopping boards, knives, wooden spoons and so on.
- Store raw meat separately from other foods ? particularly foods that won't be cooked before you eat them. Stack your fridge carefully, with raw meat on the bottom shelf so it can't drip blood onto other food.
- Bins are a breeding ground for germs, so empty them regularly. Use a bin with a lid and a bin liner.
- Keep pets and their feeding bowls away from your food and preparation areas. Give pets their own feeding bowls and clean these separately from other utensils.
- Campylobacter: the most common cause of food poisoning. Found mainly in poultry, red meat, unpasteurised milk and untreated water. It doesn't grow in food but is spread very easily.
- Salmonella: the second-most-common cause of food poisoning. It has been found in unpasteurised milk, eggs and raw egg products, meat, poultry and raw, unwashed vegetables. Salmonella can grow in food and can survive if food isn't cooked properly.
- E. coli: most strains of E. coli are harmless, but those that produce Verocytotoxin (called Verocytotoxin-producing E.coli, or VTEC) can cause severe illness and it only takes a small number of bacteria to make us very ill.
Keeping the bugs at bay
While the most important thing is to follow good hygiene practices in the kitchen, there are types of products that can help...
- A detergent, soap or washing up liquid like Fairy to wash cloths, utensils and your hands. You might want to use a heavy-duty cleaner like Cif on your work surfaces.
- A disinfectant wipe or spray such as Dettol Anti-Bacterial Surface Cleanser to kill off any remaining bacteria on work surfaces without tainting your food.
- A heavy-duty chlorine-based bleach such as Domestos to kill off bacteria in the sink, or to plunge (washed) cloths in.
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