There have been many reports of contaminated food supplies from places like China. But plenty of potential health hazards — mold and yeast but also E. coli and salmonella, possibly — lurk in your own kitchen, as noted in a report from NSF International, a nonprofit public health organization.
For its 2013 Household Germ Study, the NSF tested a number of kitchen items in 20 households in Detroit. One finding that stood out was that the things people assumed were the germiest (the keypad for the microwave oven) were not. After swabbing 14 different kitchen areas, the study participants found “germ hot spots” in unexpected places:
1) The Bottom of The Blender
The blender gasket was found to be one of the worst culprits for mold and germs. While we tend to do a careful scrub of the blender itself, we don’t always unscrew and degunk the gasket which ends up harboring the residues of long-ago-consumed smoothies. The NSF recommends cleaning it thoroughly every time after you use the blender.
2) The Fruit and Vegetable Drawers In the Refrigerator
These, along with the drawers for meat (if you eat it), were found to be replete with germs. Taking out them out and washing them thoroughly in hot, soapy water is called for. The NSF also recommends storing fruits and vegetables that have been washed away from those that have yet to be.
3) The Spatula That Gets Used Every Single Day and Then Some
The rubber spatula and its handle may look fine. These are actually two separate pieces and germs accrue in the space connecting them. As with the blender and its gasket, the NSF recommends separating the pieces and washing, drying and reassembling them separately.
4) The Water In Your Refrigerator
If your refrigerator has a water and and ice dispenser, chances are they are home to mold. Draining and cleaning (with a vinegar solution) should be routine, twice a year for the water dispenser and monthly if your refrigerator has an ice maker. The water spout should also be cleaned.
5) The Knife Block, Deadly In Ways You Wouldn’t Expect
The slots that hold different sizes of cutlery are also host to a full panoply of bacteria. NSF advises sanitizing the slots with careful cleaning and drying them out thoroughly. Your knives themselves should also be thoroughly, carefully scrubbed after each use to prevent mold and bacteria from building up.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five outbreaks of food-borne illness are caused by food eaten in people’s own homes. Leafy vegetables and other produce are behind about one-third of the cases, the New York Times Well blog underscores.
The NSF’s 2013 germ hot spot report reminds us that the modern kitchen, with its multitude of appliances with their many plastic, metal, rubber, silicone, etc. parts, harbors an equal number of sites for mold to grow and germs to accumulate. If you’re doing some spring cleaning, clearly those overlooked crevices should be the first place to start!
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