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How to keep on top of bacteria and contaminants

Health and Mental Health

How to keep on top of bacteria and contaminants

Friday Health specials with ATV Today Lifestyle…

Experts reveal that certain kitchen items, if not properly maintained, can become sources of bacteria and contaminants that might affect your health. Plumbworld, a bathroom and kitchen expert, offers insights into why kitchen items can be sources of illness. It highlights how our environments can harbour harmful microorganisms and the practices that can mitigate these risks.

1. Cutting Boards: The frequent use of cutting boards for slicing raw meats, vegetables, and other foods can create microscopic grooves where bacteria thrive. These grooves, especially in plastic boards, may not be thoroughly reached by simple washing. Wooden boards, while having some antibacterial properties, require specific care to prevent moisture retention and bacterial growth. Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria from raw meat transfer to vegetables or fruits that are eaten raw, posing serious health risks.

Safety Precaution and Alternatives:

  • Use glass or bamboo cutting boards as alternatives; they’re harder and less prone to grooving.
  • Apply a bleach solution or white vinegar after use for deep disinfection.

2. Sponges and Dishcloths: Given their moist and nutrient-rich environment, sponges and dishcloths are breeding grounds for pathogens. Studies have found that kitchen sponges can harbour a higher number of bacteria than any other household item, including E. coli and Staphylococcus. Regularly microwaving sponges for two minutes or laundering dishcloths can help kill bacteria, but frequent replacement is also recommended.

 

Safety Precaution and Alternatives:

  • Switch to silicone scrubbers or dish brushes; they are less hospitable to bacteria and easier to clean.
  • Use paper towels for one-time clean-ups, especially for spills from raw meat.

3. Kitchen Sinks: Despite the flow of soap and water, sinks accumulate food particles from dishes and utensils. These remnants, combined with a moist environment, encourage bacterial and fungal growth. Cleaning the sink with antibacterial agents after washing dishes and wiping down the faucet and handles can reduce the risk of contamination.

 Safety Precaution and Alternatives:

  • Install a UV light sanitizer in the sink area to help kill bacteria and viruses.
  • Regularly pour boiling water down the drain to kill germs and clear debris.

4. Refrigerator Drawers and Shelves: The cold environment of a fridge slows bacterial growth but doesn’t halt it. Leaks from raw meat packaging and residues from fruits and vegetables can spread to other foods, potentially causing foodborne illnesses. Regular cleaning with a mild bleach solution or a vinegar-based cleaner can prevent this spread.

 Safety Precaution and Alternatives:

  • Use antimicrobial liners to reduce the risk of bacterial growth.
  • Store raw meats in dedicated, sealable containers to prevent leaks.

5. Reusable Grocery Bags: While beneficial for the environment, these bags can become contaminated from raw produce and meats. Without proper cleaning, they can introduce bacteria to your home and kitchen. Washing fabric bags in hot water and using separate bags for meats and vegetables can minimise this risk.

Safety Precaution and Alternatives:

  • Opt for bags made from antimicrobial materials that inhibit bacterial growth.
  • Use disposable bags for raw meats and seafood to prevent cross-contamination.

6. Blender Gaskets: The complexity of disassembling some blenders for thorough cleaning leads to neglect, allowing food particles and moisture to remain. This residue can breed mould and bacteria, contaminating everything you blend. Regular disassembly and cleaning of all parts, especially after making smoothies or soups, are vital.

 Safety Precaution and Alternatives:

  • Regularly replace gaskets and seals to avoid hard-to-clean build-up.
  • Consider blenders designed with fewer crevices and easier disassembly.

7. Coffee Makers: The dark and damp interiors of coffee makers are ideal for mould and yeast growth. Stagnant water in the reservoir can also be a breeding ground for bacteria. Descaling and cleaning with vinegar followed by several cycles of fresh water can help maintain the cleanliness of your coffee maker.

 Safety Precaution and Alternatives:

  • Use a coffee maker with a removable water reservoir for easier cleaning.
  • Replace traditional coffee makers with single-serve machines to minimise water stagnation.

8. Can Openers: Manual or electric, can openers directly contact food and are often overlooked in kitchen cleaning routines. Rust and food particles can accumulate, contaminating cans and their contents. Washing after each use and drying thoroughly can prevent this issue.

Safety Precaution and Alternatives:

  • Opt for dishwasher-safe can openers to ensure thorough cleaning.
  • Consider a magnetic, no-touch can opener to avoid direct contact with food.

9. Spice Jars: Handled frequently during cooking, often without washing hands in between, spice jars can collect bacteria. The low moisture content of spices protects them to some extent, but contamination with bacteria like Salmonella can occur, and these bacteria can survive in dry conditions for a long time.

Safety Precaution and Alternatives:

  • Store spices in airtight containers with dispensing lids to minimise contact.
  • Use single-use gloves when handling spices during cooking sessions.

10. Rubber Seals on Storage Containers: Rubber seals are designed to keep air out, but they can also trap food and moisture, creating a habitat for mould and bacteria. These contaminants can then transfer to the food stored inside. Removing seals and washing them separately can ensure they are cleaned thoroughly.

Safety Precaution and Alternatives:

  • Switch to containers with built-in vacuum sealing to reduce the need for rubber seals.
  • Use glass containers with clamp lids that offer a seal without a separate rubber gasket.

A spokesperson from Plumbworld:

“Ensuring your kitchen remains a safe and healthy environment involves adopting some simple but effective habits that extend beyond the typical clean-as-you-go approach. For instance, creating a regular cleaning schedule that includes those often overlooked items, such as can openers and spice jars, can make a significant difference. Emphasising the use of natural cleaning agents like vinegar and baking soda for these tasks can also minimise the introduction of harsh chemicals into areas where food is prepared. This approach not only contributes to a safer kitchen but also supports a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

“Understanding the specific needs of each item in your kitchen can also lead to better maintenance practices. For example, knowing that wooden cutting boards benefit from mineral oil application to prevent drying and cracking can extend their life and efficacy in keeping bacteria at bay. The practice of dedicating certain utensils and cutting boards to specific types of food, such as raw meats or vegetables, can further reduce the risk of cross-contamination.”

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