Hidden Havens (for bacteria)

A recent report looks at the places and appliances in your kitchen, which are the most likely to harbor harmful bacteria. The results may surprise you.

The study by NSF, a nonprofit public health group, hopes to provide some insight on how food borne illnesses spread in even the cleanest of kitchens.


Researchers took swabs from kitchens in suburban Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan, and asked participants to rate where they thought the highest contamination might occur.

While the participants all guessed that the microwave keypad would be the dirtiest, the researchers found that other areas were much more contaminated.

Refrigerator ice and water dispensers are a breeding ground for yeast and mold. The vegetable and meat compartments of refrigerators were often found to harbor salmonella, and listeria. Most shockingly, rubber spatulas, and the rubber gasket that prevents leaks in the blender, were also found to contain yeast, mold and E coli and salmonella.

Proper cleaning of these items is pivotal in preventing food borne illness.

The blender should be fully disassembled and washed in hot soapy water, before drying and storing. Just washing the jar and lid does not seem to be effective enough. Be sure to remove the rubber ring and wash each component thoroughly.

Rubber spatulas are made in 2 pieces, and the handle should be detached from the rubber head, and cleaned separately.

NSF also suggests that the vegetable bins be washed regularly with soap and water, and dried with a clean towel. Unwashed produce should be kept separated, and away from other foods to prevent cross contamination.

The meat drawers should also be cleaned regularly. The meat should be stored at the bottom of the refrigerator, to avoid juices dripping onto other items.

Water and ice dispensers should be cleaned with a solution of vinegar and water. It is recommended that the water source be turned off, and 3-4 cups of distilled white vinegar be run through the system. Use a tiny brush to clean the waterspout weekly. Be sure to run the water and discard the next batch of ice, to avoid the vinegar taste.

While it was not found to be the ultimate harbinger of germs, it doesn’t hurt to wipe down that microwave keypad with a disinfectant on a regular basis.

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