6 Ways to Prevent the Spread of Bacteria in the Kitchen
Written by: Sarah Haley
Bacteria can grow and spread on a wide range of surfaces and objects.
Bacteria can be harmful for a variety of reasons. Upon swallowing contaminated food or drink, it can take as little as a few hours to develop painful symptoms.
Several bacteria species cause food poisoning like Salmonella, Vibrio, Botulism, E. coli, and Listeria.1 All of which have the capability to grow in your home kitchen.
Approximately 1 in 8 Canadians get sick each year from contaminated food. These food-borne infections lead to an estimated 11,500 hospitalizations and 240 deaths.2
It’s critical to prevent and stop the spread of bacteria in the kitchen to ensure a safe environment.
Here are six tips that will help keep your kitchen free of bacteria and keep you safe.
1. Wash your dishes properly
If you’re lucky, you have a dishwasher that does the hard work for you. But, sometimes there are leftover dishes, or you need to wash a knife to finish preparing dinner.
This is when handwashing dishes becomes essential.
Handwashing is fantastic to make sure your crystal glasses and delicate china are clean. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t rules you should still be following.
Raw meat, fish, and poultry can spread dangerous bacteria to other kitchen utensils. To make sure you’re killing any potential pathogens, you need to make sure you’re thoroughly washing your cooking supplies.
First, use a cleaning solution to disinfect any of the items that have been in contact with raw meat. You can make an easy cleaning solution at home by combining one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water.3 Let the items sit in the mixture for several minutes to ensure proper sterilization.
If you’re looking for a natural bleach alternative, check out Nature Clean’s oxygen liquid bleach.
Next, take the items out of the solution and wash them with hot water, soap, and a rag or sponge. After the items have been washed, rinse them off, and put them out to dry.
Pro-tip: If you have sensitive hands, pick up a pair of reusable kitchen gloves from the store. These gloves will help protect your skin when washing dishes in soap or solution.
2. Get a touchless soap dispenser
One of the primary sources of contamination is hand-to-hand or hand-to-food contact. Most viruses and bacteria that make us sick are spread this way.
It is important to remember that when handling contaminated objects, bacteria can spread to your hands. This is why it’s just as necessary to clean and sanitize your hands as it is for your dishes. To stop any potential bacterial growth, remember to clean between your fingers and under your fingernails.
But when you are preparing raw chicken for dinner and it gets all over your hands, it can be a struggle to wash them in a sanitary way. If you have a manual soap pump bottle, using it is only going to further spread the bacteria present on your hands.
To fix this problem, get an automatic soap dispenser to mount on the wall or keep by the sink. An automatic dispenser will eliminate the risk of cross-contamination between surfaces and make washing your hands even easier.
The Triden Troop mini is a great sustainable alternative to a manual pump dispenser. Plus, its sleek appearance will match any kitchen aesthetic.
3. Sanitize your cleaning supplies
It may seem surprising, but washcloths, sponges, and kitchen faucets are all optimal places for germs to hide.
An article written for Food Protection Trends by a group of researchers analyzed cross-contamination and handwashing habits in the kitchen. The researchers found that cloth towels became quickly contaminated in a kitchen setting due to improper handwashing techniques. They observed that trash can cabinet handles and sink faucets were also a prime location for cross-contamination.
Bacteria don’t disappear right away!
Salmonella can survive for roughly four hours on a surface, E. coli for a couple of hours, and hepatitis A for months.4 Make sure you sanitize your cleaning supplies the next time you complete your kitchen cleaning routine.
To do so, put your washcloths in the washing machine with bleach and wipe down handles and faucets with a cleaning solution.
Neil Schachter, MD, and author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Cold and Flu recommends to “wet your sponge and then pop it in the microwave for two minutes to eliminate the germs that lurk inside the crevices.”5
4. Don’t get into the habit of cross-contamination
It might be faster to use the same knife and cutting board for your meat and your veggies, but that doesn’t mean it’s better.
In some cases, it’s not unsafe to use the same kitchen supplies to prepare food. If all the food is getting cooked at a high temperature, it is technically okay to-do-so. The problem arises when you get into the habit of it.
Say you're feeling extra tired one day. You somehow forget to clean the contaminated knife you used to prep your chicken. Then, by mistake, you use that same knife to cut up the salad ingredients.
Now everyone who eats that salad is at risk of becoming sick by a food-borne pathogen.
Bacteria don’t grow like humans; they reproduce by dividing. That means that a single bacterium can multiply to more than 30,000 in five hours.6
To minimize bacterial growth and keep your loved ones safe, practice cross-contamination safety strategies whenever you’re in the kitchen.
5. Clean and Disinfect EVERYTHING
Even if a kitchen looks clean, that might not mean it's free of germs. Cleaning is necessary to remove food scraps, stove grease, dirt, and even some bacteria. But cleaning can also spread bacteria around.
This is why you should also disinfect kitchen surfaces after cleaning. When you disinfect (or sanitize), you are killing all the microorganisms that remain. You can purchase disinfectants and sanitizers in the form of sprays, liquids, or wipes.
Nature Clean is a Canadian brand that makes eco-friendly, gluten-free, vegan, and biodegradable products. They make a multi-surface spray cleaner that comes in a variety of scents along with other staple kitchen products.
Biovert is another great Canadian company that’s focused on environmental sustainability. They are EcoLogo certified and make an all-purpose cleaner that uses probiotics to remove bad bacteria.
To guarantee that your kitchen is free of any bad bacteria, remember to disinfect kitchen counters, handles, faucets, and garbage and compost lids.
6. Own a Food Thermometer
Whether you’re cooking a turkey for thanksgiving or roast beef for a family dinner, it’s important to know if your meat is properly cooked. To make sure your meat has been fully cooked, stick a food thermometer inside and check the temperature.
Chicken, which is often contaminated with bacteria like Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus. aureus, and Salmonella enteritidis, should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165˚F (73.9˚C) to kill any microbes.
Pork, which is often contaminated with E. coli, S. aureus, Salmonella, and Yersinia enterocolitica, should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145˚F (62.8˚C).
Beef is most commonly contaminated with E. coli, Salmonella, S. aureus, and Listeria monocytogenes. The microbes that are found in beef can be destroyed by cooking.7
Taking the extra step to check the internal temperature of your food will help prevent any risk of food poisoning and keep you safe.
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