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article imageMost contaminated places in the home identified

By Tim Sandle     May 20, 2017 in Environment
Philadelphia - There's been a lot of coverage about contamination in the environment and microbial risks in hospitals, but how about your home? Two new studies highlight the dirtiest places in the typical house.
It is common these days for cafes, bars and restaurants to have food hygiene ratings and such establishments are regularly inspected by food hygiene or environmental health experts from municipal authorities. When people read about a cockroach infected restaurant, for instance, they either feel glad they never paid a visit or might worryingly scratch their head if they dined at the establishment the night before. But what if your home was subject to the same rigorous hygiene inspection as undertaken by your local authority? What might be found and where?
Two new studies have the answer. The first is published in the journal Food Inspection Trends and it is titled "Visual Audit of Food Safety Hazards Present in Homes in an Urban Environment." With this study Drexel University researchers visited a number of U.S. homes, made observations and took samples. With this they focused on sanitation, refrigeration, and food storage.
Some of the things found in the average home were:
Pest infestation (at a rate of 65 percent).
Almost 2 out of 5 homes had perishable food stored at room temperature.
In almost every home (97 percent) the researchers found the storage of raw meat above ready-to-eat foods (for homes where meat was present).
A smaller number of homes had no hot running water in the kitchen (3 percent).
Following correct refrigeration practices was also low, with almost half of refrigerator temperatures greater than 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius).
One the subject of refrigerators, only 4 percent contained a thermometer.
The researchers suggest there is "a lack of knowledge or motivation to follow safe food handling guidelines", but also, in low income homes, there is simply a lack of money to spend making the kitchen safe.
With the second study, published in the Journal of Food Protection ("Prevalence of Pathogens and Indicator Organisms in Home Kitchens and Correlation with Unsafe Food Handling Practices and Conditions"), the authors (also from Drexel University, Philadelphia, U.S.) found the "kitchen as a reservoir for pathogens."
The focus of the second study was mainly on bacterial pathogens (looking for evidence of fecal coliforms, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria). Here the researchers found:
Fecal coliforms were found in 44 percent of homes (most often from kitchen sinks, sponges, and dishcloths).
E. coli was found in 15 percent of homes (again from kitchen sinks).
Worryingly, just under half of homes tested positive for a foodborne pathogen.
Potential pathogen S. aureus was isolated from 39 percent of homes, most commonly from countertops and refrigerator door handles.
Listeria species were present in 15 percent of homes, generally from refrigerator meat drawers. Notably contamination with Listeria was significantly associated with higher refrigerator temperatures.
The researchers noted that contamination of surfaces with fecal coliforms was typically associated with a lack of cleaning materials being present, such as no soap or towels being present in the kitchen.
Analyzing both studies, Time Magazine summarizes the top five most contaminated places in the average home as:
1. The fridge
2. Dishcloths and sponges
3. In and around your sink
4. Cutting boards
5. Anywhere pets are present
The results of the two studies suggest that, in the typical home, more attention needs to be paid to hygiene essentials in order to reduce the risk of contracting a foodborne illness.
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