THE kitchen is always the busiest room in the home, but it can also be the dirtiest – with more germs than a toilet seat.
Heat, moisture, food and people create the perfect environment for salmonella, E coli and listeria.
But it is easy to get rid of these bugs with a simple cleaning regime and good food practice, and today microbiologist Dr Jonathan Hughes tells Sun on Sunday Health how to keep bugs at bay.
He says: “Work surfaces in the kitchen are often home to significantly higher quantities of bacteria than the surfaces in bathrooms, even toilet seats.
“This is particularly true of surfaces that come into frequent contact with raw meat, such as chopping boards, and also kitchen sinks if they aren’t cleaned regularly.
“And although there are bacteria present, it is also a family home, not an abattoir. Keeping a good cleaning schedule should be enough to keep on top of germs and keep numbers low.
“There will always be a few left, however they are harmless to a healthy person with a strong immune system. But the young, old and immunocompromised could suffer when exposed.”
Here is Dr Hughes’s advice for keeping safe . . .
TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF AT THE DOOR
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a type of germ found in moist environments and on soil surrounding fruit and vegetables.
A study conducted by electrical retailer Currys in 2020 found that ALL floors they tested carried the bug.
Dr Hughes says: “Take your shoes off when you enter your home and get others to as well.
“The five-second rule, when you’ve dropped something on the floor, has some truth to it because reduced time in contact with the floor reduces how many bacteria get from the floor to the item.
“However, there is always some transfer. If you keep your floor relatively clean and pick it up quickly and are in good health the risk is relatively low — but still a risk.
“If you have cats and dogs wandering through your kitchen, err on the side of caution and throw the item away.”
USE A CLOTH NOT A SPONGE
Another culprit with high levels of pseudomonas aeruginosa is the cleaning sponge.
Dr Hughes says: “Mops, sponges, sinks, tea towels and bins are the biggest germ hosts.
“They are left in damp, warm conditions — ripe for bacterial growth.
“It is harder to dry out a sponge, and for that reason I would recommend after using a cloth, laying it out to dry after use and washing it frequently.”
People often neglect cleaning fridge handles, oven doors, the kettle handle, door handles, light switches and taps, but these are easily contaminated.
Dr Hughes says: “It only takes a couple of minutes to give these a wipe, but it’s remembering to include them that is key.”
Cleaning your hands in between jobs and before eating will stop germs in their tracks.
Dr Hughes says: “Have one chopping board for meat and another for vegetables when you are cooking.
“If you chop raw meat contaminated with microbes such as salmonella and then prepare salad that won’t be cooked to kill off the germs, then you are exposing yourself to potentially harmful bacteria.”
Keep raw meat and fish away from that which is cooked and pre-prepared to stop one from infecting the other.
Store meats at the bottom of the fridge so potential drips can’t contaminate food below.
Make sure all food is wrapped and sealed properly and never put hot food in the fridge, as this will raise the temperature.
Hot soapy water is enough to keep your kitchen clean.
Dr Hughes says: “You can use disinfectant but then you are introducing chemicals into your home, which is not liked by some.
“Hot, clean water with some washing-up liquid in it should be enough to get rid of the germs if you have a regular cleaning regime.”
BIN MOULDY FOODS
Dr Hughes says: “Moulds are fungi that often appear on foods as they spoil and can produce illness-causing toxins.
“And cutting off the mould on foods like bread and cheese isn’t enough, because they produce microscopic threads that spread into the surrounding area. It’s best to throw them away.”
BE CAREFUL OF SMARTPHONES IN THE KITCHEN
Dr Hughes says: “So many people take their smartphones to the toilet with them and then will use them in the kitchen to look up recipes.
“I would recommend leaving your phone out of the bathroom to be free of those germs, which could cause vomiting, diarrhoea and nausea in some.”
WHEN TO CLEAN WHAT
FLOORS: Once a week.
CLOTHS, TEA TOWELS AND SINKS: Once a week.
HIGH-TOUCH AREAS AND WORKTOPS: Wipe down after cooking.
FRIDGE: Once every two to three months.
HANDS: before preparing food, after touching raw food, after going to the loo, before eating, after blowing your nose or sneezing, after handling food waste or emptying a bin.