Do you really know what’s cooking in your kitchen?
Regular soap does not kill germs.
Common soaps only help wash the germs off your skin. Antibacterial soaps do kill bacteria, though they are not effective against all fungi and viruses, which can also make you sick. Ultimately, the type of soap you use means little without the physical action of scrubbing germs away with a strong and thorough technique. For the best wash, scrub your palms, between your fingers, across the top and under your fingernails for about 15 seconds—the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday"—then rinse and repeat for another verse. And don't forget to dry your hands when you are done.
Between 50 percent and 80 percent of all food-borne illnesses are contracted in the home.
Restaurants and supermarkets are bound to health codes by law: Food storage, food handling, utensil cleaning and cooking temperatures are all regulated. In the home, all bets are off.
Cross-contamination and the mishandling of food lead to some 72 million instances of disease in the U.S. every year. There are more than 250 known food-borne diseases, including botulism, salmonella, shigella, listeria, campylobacter and hepatitis A.
The dirtiest item in anybody’s home is the kitchen sponge.
The dirtiest room is the kitchen, the dirtiest spot is the sink and the worst culprits are the sponge or dish towel. Bacteria colonies with a total population exceeding 50 million can live on a single dirty sponge. And that’s what you use to wipe down countertops, forks and drinking glasses. Blecch.
The best bet is to soak the sponge for about a minute in a solution of bleach and water (approximately 1 ounce of bleach to a quart of water will do) after each use. Another option is to boil the sponge for three minutes. Nuking a sponge is not as effective, since microwaves have dead spots, and dishwashers won’t necessarily reach 155 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature needed to kill germs.
Wood and plastic cutting boards are both fine.
Scrub your boards clean with soap and water after each use, then disinfect with the bleach solution. Problems arise when a board gets a deep knife cut, where bacteria can grow. The advantage of wood boards is that they can be sanded down. Some plastic or composite boards are made with antibacterial materials.
That’s a dead animal in your fridge.
Bacteria thrives on carcasses, so you better keep yours cold. Most state departments of health recommend a temperature no higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit for refrigerators and 10 degrees Fahrenheit for freezers. The cold slows down the growth of many types of bacteria on meat and other food. Even so, the FDA recommends keeping fresh, raw meat in the fridge for no more than two days.
Cook your food through. The only meat that is OK to eat rare is a piece of steak; burning both sides will kill whatever lives on the surface, and bacteria usually does not permeate the muscle.
Vegetarians do not get a pass.
You can eat raw vegetables, of course, but scrub whatever you prepare. These are foods that grow in or on the ground, where pathogens live and pesticides settle.
Find more on MSN Health & Fitness:
- Ear Infections
- Clean Your Hands
- Infectious Diseases: How They Spread, How to Stop Them
- Playground Hazards
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