When one thinks about keeping their family safe in the kitchen, a few things come to mind, such as keeping children away from the stove and other burn hazards and properly preparing food to avoid food borne illnesses. What many people fail to realize, or forget about, are the other, less-obvious dangers in your kitchen that could make your family ill. Here are four hazards that are found in almost every kitchen:
- Sponges. The Problem: You use a sponge to clean dirty dishes and other kitchen tools, but often times we forget just how quickly our sponges become breeding grounds for bacteria. Shine reported that in a study conducted that analyzed various household items, the kitchen sponge has 150 times more yeast, mold, and bacteria than they found when analyzing the bathroom toothbrush holder. No one would think to disinfect the item they are using to disinfect other objects. If a sponge becomes contaminated with E.coli or Salmonella, it could result in serious illness for one of your family members.
- Quick Fix: Make sure you replace your sponge every two weeks. In between replacements, you can disinfect your sponge by wetting it and sticking it in the microwave for two minutes – this should be done daily.
- Refrigerators. The Problem: How often do you check the temperature of your fridge? Most likely you do only on a rare occasion such as when the power has gone out. The temperature of your fridge is extremely important because bacteria growth is slowed in cooler temperatures. Your fridge should never be above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Quick Fix: If your fridge did not come equipped with a thermometer you can easily (and cheaply) purchase one at many major retailers. Be sure to keep an eye on the temperature to help reduce bacteria growth.
- Cutting Boards. The Problem: Certain cutting boards are more apt to hold bacteria than others. For example, while wooden cutting boards may look nice on your countertop, but wood is porous and bacteria can get into it and thrive. There is also a risk of injury if you are using a glass cutting board. One, it is not kind to your knives, and will likely ruin them, but more importantly they break easily, which poses a risk for cuts and lacerations. Another cutting board risk is contaminating your food based on what you are cooking. If you are preparing uncooked meat, fish or poultry you should not use the same cutting board for produce. If you do you could run the risk of transmitting harmful bacteria.
- Quick Fix: Buy plastic or acrylic cutting boards. They are easy to clean, durable, and will not hold bacteria. Also make sure you use separate cutting boards for your produce and meats. You may have more dishes, but it’s better than ingesting Salmonella. When you clean the boards, they should be washed in hot, soapy water, and air dried. If you need them to dry faster, always use paper towels and not a dish towel (think of all the things you used that towel for, it is crawling with bacteria). Acrylic and plastic boards can be run through the dishwasher. Culinary experts also suggest sanitizing your board with a chlorine bleach-water solution (1 tablespoon bleach per 1 gallon of water); soak or spray the solution on the board, let it sit, and let it air dry.
- Recalled Items. The Problem: Perhaps it is stating the obvious, but when a food product or kitchen tool/appliance is recalled there is a significant threat to your health and well-being. That being said, any and all recalled items should be disposed of immediately. A study conducted by Rutgers University found that only 60 per cent of Americans will search their kitchens when a product is recalled. While that is a large number of people, it should be 100 per cent.
- Quick Fix: Stay up to date on any and all recalls (food and kitchen related or otherwise) by visiting www.recalls.gov.
There is no hard-and fast rule that will give you a 100 per cent guarantee that you will prevent foodborne illnesses in your home, but these safety tips will greatly reduce the chances. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that each year roughly 76,000,000 people in the country are made ill from food. There are, of course, common knowledge ways to avoid this, such as washing your hands, and using clean kitchen tools when preparing food, but there are many surprising ways that food borne illnesses can make their way to your family. If you or someone you love has been injured or made ill as the result of a kitchen accident or food borne illness, you may be entitled to compensation, speak with a qualified injury attorney in New Jersey today to find out your legal rights and options.
Thanks to our friends at Console and Hollawell for this interesting article on easy ways to spot and fix problems with germs that are found in kitchens. With a little inspection and proper cleaning, we can hopefully stay healthy.