The most unsanitary kitchen surfaces

October 13, 2018

Of all the food handling practices at home, the failure to effectively remove microorganisms from food-contact surfaces has serious implications in the transmission of foodborne disease. These are the most microbiologically contaminated sites in the kitchen: food-contact surfaces, cutting boards, sinks and sponges.

Studies have found cross-contamination between hand and food contact surfaces to be a significant contribution to cross-infection, and these surfaces pose a constant risk of microbial cross-contamination.

Cross contamination is the transfer of any contaminant to other clean or prepared foods. Of these food and hand contact surfaces, only cutting boards and utensils are directly contacted with foods, including finished or Ready-to-Eat products.

Kitchen utensils, as well as cutting boards, are key cross-contamination routes. Although nearly all consumers report they wash these items after using them with raw meat or produce, when consumers are watched during the cleaning process, the vast majority do not clean cutting boards sufficiently to prevent cross contamination.

Unlike most kitchen utensils, cutting boards are made of plastic, wood, rubber, or other materials and are difficult to clean and sanitize. Using and maintaining cutting boards cleanly and safely is very critical to prevent microbial contamination and foodborne disease infection, because cutting boards are generally the first place to prepare raw foods and potentially transfer any contaminant.

Follow these steps to properly clean and sanitize a cutting board:

• Wash the cutting board in warm soapy water.

• Rinse in very warm water.

• To sanitize a cutting board: use a mixture of one tablespoon of unscented chlorine bleach and a gallon of water, saturate the board and let it sit for a few minutes. After a few minutes, thoroughly rinse the cutting board and then let it air dry. Source: USDA

Julie Buck, EdD, RDN, is a registered dietitian, food safety, health, nutrition and food safety educator employed at the University of Idaho Extension, Bingham County. She can be reached at (208)785-8060 or jhbuck@uidaho.edu.

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