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Common kitchen items harbor food pathogens RESEARCH

A recent study by NSF International's Applied Research Center (ARC) has found that many common kitchen items harbor unsafe levels of E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, yeast and mold.

 

Scientists at NSF International, a global public health and safety organization, point to a number of contributing factors, including improper food storage, handling, preparation and cleaning, which may help explain why more than 20% of foodborne illness outbreaks result from food consumed in the home.

The NSF microbiologists conducting the germ study analyzed 14 common kitchen items for the presence of four different types of microorganisms: E. coli, Salmonella, yeast and mold, and Listeria.

Here is what they found:

  • Refrigerator vegetable compartment: Salmonella, Listeria, yeast and mold
  • Refrigerator meat compartment: Salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold
  • Blender gasket: Salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold
  • Can opener: Salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold
  • Rubber spatula: E. coli, yeast and mold
  • Food storage container with rubber seal: Salmonella, yeast and mold

"Consumers are increasingly concerned about the safety and quality of their food but often don't realize that they may be the cause of foodborne illness in their own homes, due to improper cleaning of kitchenware and appliances. As a NSF microbiologist, I was surprised to learn that most people know what items carry germs, but they still didn't clean them properly," said Rob Donofrio, Ph.D., Director of NSF International's Applied Research Center.

While germ study volunteers correctly identified items that they thought would harbor the most germs, they are not always cleaning them sufficiently to prevent illness. The following is a list of the items that were perceived by volunteers to be the "germiest" versus the actual "germiest" items (ranked from highest to lowest in germ count):

Perceived:

Reality:

1. Microwave keypad  
2. Can opener 
3. Refrigerator meat compartment  
4. Refrigerator vegetable compartment 
5. Flatware storage tray 
6. Knife block   
7. Pizza cutter    
8.
Rubber spatula     
9. Refrigerator insulating seal     
10. Ice dispenser

1. Refrigerator water dispenser
2. Rubber spatula
3. Blender
4. Refrigerator vegetable compartment
5. Refrigerator ice dispenser
6. Refrigerator meat compartment
7. Knife block
8. Food storage container with rubber seal
 9.
Can opener
10. Refrigerator insulating seal

 

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