Aside from the toilet, our kitchen is the only other room in the house where most germs and bacteria that are naked to the human eye reside.
In a survey of 20,000 adults, 25% of men and 14% of women did not routinely wash hands with soap after handling raw meat or poultry. Closer to home, AC Nielsen (2008) discovered that 3 in 10 Singaporeans do not wash their hands after using the toilet and 4 in 10 do not use soap to wash their hands.
Even more shocking is that 3 in 10 do not wash their hands before meals and 5 in 10 do not wash their hands after meals.
Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an Infectious Diseases Specialist currently attached to Raffles Hospital explains that specks of the meal hidden in the crevices of your finger nails are “buffet meals for bacteria”. He urges the practice of good hygiene to minimize the chances of contracting food borne diseases like Salmonella and E-coli.
“We can’t get rid of bacteria, so we have to learn to protect ourselves against it,” said Dr Leong, further emphasizing that the bacteria transference is often made with our hands. Hence, it is essential for us and our food handlers to practice good hygiene as bacterial lurk on any surface – sink, counter tops, chopping boards etc.
3M, the market leader that provides the most comprehensive selection in home care solutions, offers these tips for a healthier kitchen.
1. Always wash your hands in warm, soapy water before and after preparing food.
2. Clean Kitchen surfaces after every stage of preparing your recipe. Try to 'clean as you go'. This is to prevent cross-contamination as raw meat, poultry, fish, eggs and many other raw foods are the most common sources of germs.
3. Always use a separate cutting board for raw and cooked food. The juice from raw meat contains harmful bacteria that can make one very ill. If possible, avoid wooden chopping board which over time will have many small cuts or scratches where bacteria thrives in. Even a very tiny opening on the surface of a cutting board can harbour more bacteria than you like to think about.
4. Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly before preparing. Scrub fruits and veggies with a brush and cut away any bruised or damaged parts of the food as bacteria thrive in these areas.
5. When cleaning cooking utensils, use the right sponge to clean according to the materials. Different types of utensils are used when cooking – some are made of ceramics, while others are made of glass or plastic. Always use the right sponge that is specifically catered to clean that category of utensils to effectively remove grit and grease while avoiding scratches.
6. When washing utensils, make sure every part is washed. Do not forget to wash the bottom of the plates or the handle of the spoon and fork. They are not as clean as you think.
7. Clean the sponge after every wash. The sponges and brushes which are used to wash utensils grow bacteria easily, so it is important to take extra care of them. Wash the sponges with plain clean water thoroughly, squeeze the excess water and leave them to dry before further use.
8. Use different clothes for different sections of your kitchen. Never use a cloth that is for cleaning kitchen surfaces for wiping dry dishes.
9. Keep your kitchen surfaces clean. Wipe down countertops with an antibacterial solution or sponge and paper towels to keep bacteria at bay.
10. Never let water sit, whether spilled on the counter, the floor, under the refrigerator, or simply is left from dishes stacked on the counter after rinsing. Water can become a breeding ground for bacteria, especially if other substances such as dust are present.
11. Keep soap bars as dry as possible to avoid bacteria growth – or use liquid soap in a dispenser.
12. Do a ‘big’ clean of fridges, freezes, cupboards and surfaces at least once a week. The above locations are prime spots for bacteria breeding if large quantities of food and drinks are stored.
13. Do not submerge hot pans in cold water or cold pans in hot water. Lukewarm water is best for cleaning non-stick pans. Place a paper towel in a pan quarter-filled with water overnight to remove the grease.