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December 2017

10 disgusting kitchen habits

Written by Nicole Horne
Food Safety and Food Processing, Cleanliness and Hygiene

Many of us might have less than savoury kitchen habits we might not even be aware of, which can lead to the spread of harmful pathogens and cross-contamination in the office. Now, before we all go into a panic and enter the office kitchen with a hazmat suit; we need to be aware that while some germs are good for our gut and immune system, others might not be as innocent.

I bring to you 10 disgusting kitchen habits that deserve more than a castover glance!

Disgusting kitchen habits:

1. Sponges and other cleaning tools that are left to soak with dirty dishes

This is one of my pet hates when it comes to gross - and annoying - kitchen habits. By leaving your kitchen cloths and sponges in the sink, along with dirty dishes, you spread dirt and germs to other surfaces that can lead to the development of foodborne illnesses.

2. Using cleaning tools that are not so clean

Dr C. Gerbera, professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, told the BBC that a kitchen sponge is 200 000 times dirtier than a toilet seat, while a dishcloth is twenty thousand times dirtier. Be sure to disinfect sponges and dish cloths regularly. Here’s a tip: soak sponges and rags daily in half a teaspoon of bleach in a warm water and allow to dry properly.

3. Kitchen counters that aren’t sanitised as regularly as they should be

Wiping down counters with a wet cloth may look clean, but we need to ensure that counter tops are sanitised to prevent the spread of cross contamination to other areas in the kitchen. Here’s a tip: wipe counters clean with a cloth and then spray or wipe with a bleach or disinfectant solution and allow to air dry.

4. Old food left to their own devices in the corner of the office fridge

In a previous blog post "Find out how regularly your office fridge should be cleaned", we discussed not only the gross aspects of mouldy food left in the fridge, but also the health hazards thereof and tips to keep in mind to ensure a hygienic office and kitchen. Be aware that food can be contaminated at any stage of its life cycle - which can lead to less than pleasant symptoms. Make sure that old food is thrown out and use by dates checked.

5. Rubbish bins that are not emptied, or sanitised often enough

Not only leaving a garbage can filled to the brink, will smell horrid, but it will also lead to bacteria growing inside the bin and attract unwanted pests. Be sure to throw out rubbish regularly and disinfect bins.

6. Leaving leftovers laying around

We all have probably come across a teacup with a used teabag in the sink, or a half-eaten bowl of what used-to be cereal on the counter up. It is disgusting not to mention the least, and I feel sorry for the person assigned to cleaning duty, but this is also a breeding spot for germs. Ensure that leftovers are either discarded, or stored away in airtight containers to prevent bacteria piling up -  along with the dishes! As with the previous point mentioned, leftover food will attract pests that will thrive in environments where food is provided - and thus spread harmful illnesses around the kitchen - and the rest of the office.

Recommended blog post: [Update] 10 tips for sharing a communal kitchen

7. Leaving food splutter in the microwave

This is just a no-no; plain and simple. Be mindful to your colleagues and think what your reaction would be if you left half of your cooked egg all over the inside of the microwave door. If everyone cleans after themselves, the kitchen will be a much happier - and hygienic space to visit.

8. Preparing food for others while we are sick

Most viruses and pathogens that cause colds, flu, and foodborne illnesses are spread through handling food, and also hand-to-hand contact. When you are feeling ill, rather not offer to prepare food for our colleagues - even how nice the gesture may seem at the time. Let’s spread the love, not the germs!

If you're sick it's also best to maintain good handwashing practices. Download our Comprehensive Handwashing Guide for tips and resources.  

9. Preparing raw meat without cleaning and sanitising surfaces it comes into contact with

A study by Safefood found that 96% of kitchen surfaces were not thoroughly washed after food was prepared, and shockingly, 43% were contaminated with bacteria from raw meat after food preparation. If these stats aren’t a wake-up call to better clean and sanitise kitchen counters and surfaces, I don’t know what is!

Here’s a tip: after preparing food - especially raw meat, poultry, seafood or fresh produce (and in light of the recent Listeriosis outbreak), be sure to wash counters and surfaces with hot soapy water, and disinfect them as well. Take care when preparing raw and cooked foods and keep them separate as well clean in between preparation of foods.

10. Thereafter, not washing chopping boards you cut raw meat on

Dr Gerbera also mentions that a cutting board contains 200 more times of faecal matter than a toilet seat. This doesn’t happen through actual faeces coming into contact with surfaces, but this originates from raw meat from the inside of an animal.

Many of us don’t necessarily think the above through and might be guilty of committing a few of the above, but if we all take time in ensuring these are implemented we can avoid bacteria spreading in the kitchen and to other areas that could negatively impact on our health, and thus office productivity levels as a whole.

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Nicole Horne

Nicole Horne

Nicole is a Digital Marketing Executive at Rentokil Initial Hygiene in Johannesburg. A self-proclaimed germaphobe, her love for hygienic environments and curiosity of all things “beneath the surface” fuels her enthusiasm for writing about the impact of germs in the workplace. She is passionate about creating awareness and sharing her knowledge on the impact of good hygiene practices. Follow Nicole on Twitter and LinkedIn for updates on the the good, the bad and the germy.

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