NewsNet5 (Cleveland) reports that bacteria and food-borne illnesses can appear anywhere and one of the most vulnerable places is your own kitchen.
Experts say most times, germs invisible to the naked eye can make you sick.
5 On Your Side consumer specialist Angie Lau got city and county health inspectors together to put a family’s kitchen to the test.
Robin Ritz is a busy mom with two little girls — Amilia is 3. She is very careful when it comes to handling raw meat.
“I try when I’m cooking, I try to use my foot and close with my knee. I try not to use my hands as much. Kids are always coming over and grab this to throw something away, and you know, kids are always putting their hands in their mouth,” Ritz said
Her kitchen looks spotless, but within minutes, the inspectors find a potential danger — dinner defrosting in the sink.
“Typically you get up, you put it on the counter and you allow it to thaw, said Angela Townsend with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.
Inspectors said bacteria at room temperatures can grow quickly.
To show how quickly, Lau swabbed Ritz’ sink and sent it to Dr. Val Flechtner at John Carroll University’s biology department.
“That little colony represents over 100 million bacteria, it grew from a single bacterium. For some organisms, as few as 100 can make you real sick,” Flechtner said.
Bchelor Rick Sledge opened his home and his fridge to NewsChannel5 and inspectors.
“Do you have any idea what your refrigerator temperature should be?” Lau asked.
“No clue,” Sledge said.
Lau said anything above 41 degrees is at risk for bacteria growth. Sledge’s fridge is 45 degrees.
“One of the things we recommend is to make sure the thermometer in your cooler says 41 degrees or below,” Flechtner said.
The inspectors also checked out Lau’s home and quickly fiound a big problem.
“Typically in a food operation, we would require them to put all their wet sponges away and sanitize after each use. When they get (dirty), you want to toss this out,” the inspector said.
Lau reported that a sponge is the worst thing you can have in your kitchen.
At her lab, Flechtner finds all sorts of dangerous bacteria living in the dish sponges and cloths, including E. coli.
“The cloth is moist and your room is warm and so the organisms can grow. They’re happy there,” Flechtner said.
She said another contamination hot spot is cutting boards. Lab tests showed they’re also a perfect home for bacteria.
“After a while, they’re impossible to clean thoroughly,” said Tara Echols with the Cleveland Public Health Department. “You want to be sanitizing your cutting board.
She said anti-bacterial soap or kitchen cleansers are not sanitizers. They wash away grime, but don’t kill the bacteria, Echols said.
The most important weapon against illness in a kitchen is bleach.
“You’re washing it, so it’s getting clean, but you’re not sanitizing it,” Echols said.
Lau offered other tips to keep you kitchen safe and clean.
1. Don’t procrastinate — put groceries away within two hours of purchase.
2. When storing raw meat, make sure it is below all other food.
3. Always cover food in your fridge.
4. Thoroughly rinse fruits and veggies.
5. Don’t let leftovers sit out at room temperature for more than four hours.
Wash hands before and after handling leftovers. Use clean utensils and surfaces. Divide leftovers into small units and store in shallow containers for quick cooling. Refrigerate within 2 hours of cooking. Discard anything left out too long. Never taste a food to determine if it is safe. When reheating leftovers, reheat thoroughly to a temperature of 165 degrees or until hot and steamy. Bring soups, sauces and gravies to a rolling boil. If in doubt, throw it out.