Harmful kitchen bacteria not quite so prevalent

Harmful kitchen bacteria not quite so prevalent

Lazy cleaners, rejoice: The bacteria typically found in many kitchens isn’t as harmful as you might think.

That’s the word from scientists in Norway, who tested the germs in 74 kitchens across five European countries. They swabbed more than 300 of the usual locations, including sinks, countertops, sponges, cooking utensils and cabinet handles. Not surprisingly, at least eight types of bacteria typically turned up — including the bacillus [buh·si·luhs] and staphylococcus [sta·fuh·luh·kaa·kuhs] strains.

The bacteria were persistent, if not particularly threatening. They were found across a wide range of environments, including some kitchens that lacked running water, dishwashers or indoor sinks. The bacteria were pervasive despite differences in food preparation, dietary habits and hygiene.

While much is known about bacteria colonies in commercial and retail food production and in food itself, the researchers said less is known about them in home kitchens. And food germs do vary by region: Salmonella, the bacterium that causes abdominal cramps and diarrhea, is not a problem in Norway but is the most common cause of foodborne illness in mainland Europe.

So what were the top locations for contamination? Sink faucets and countertops tied for first place, followed closely by sinks. The often maligned kitchen sponge was only the fourth most bacteria-laden spot.

But here’s the good news: Three types of bacteria most associated with foodborne illnesses — Salmonella, Listeria [luh·stee·ree·uh] and Campylobacter [kam·puh·low·bak·tr] — were relatively rare.

If your kitchen doesn’t always sparkle, take heart:  It doesn’t necessarily mean danger is on the menu.


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