The “Germiest” Items in the Kitchen

Adair P. Hoover
Home & Garden Information Center

Kitchen BlenderWe all know that cleanliness in the kitchen is crucial for the prevention of foodborne illness. Constant cleaning and sanitation of counters, appliances and utensils is a requirement. While most of us are good at keeping the obvious kitchen items clean, there may be germs lurking in places that you haven’t thought about. A recent study by NSF International revealed the “germiest” kitchen items to be:

  • Refrigerator vegetable and meat compartments
  • Refrigerator water and ice dispensers
  • Blender gaskets
  • Can openers
  • Rubber spatulas
  • Knife blocks
  • Food storage containers with rubber seals

These items tested positive for the presence of harmful bacteria in many of the tested kitchens and is a good reminder that germs are not always living in the most obvious places.  Bacteria that cause disease are called “pathogens.” Foodborne pathogens that are capable of causing illnesses include:  Campylobacter jejuni, Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli 0157 and Salmonella. The presence of even small amounts of these bacteria can make you and your family sick.

Effective cleaning in the kitchen involves four steps: cleaning, rinsing, drying and sanitizing. When these steps are properly followed, dirt and debris are removed and germs are reduced to a safe level. To clean the “germiest” items in the kitchen start with removing and emptying bins from the refrigerator. Unplug electric items and remove gaskets, seals and washable parts of the blender, can opener, rubber spatulas and food storage containers. Remove knives from the knife block. Thoroughly wash all items with warm soapy water and rinse with clean water. Dry with a clean towel or paper towel. Sanitize by spraying a mixture of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach (6%) to 1 gallon of water. Let chlorine mixture remain on items for 1 minute and then air dry or wipe dry with a clean paper towel.

Daily cleaning and sanitation of the kitchen is necessary for good health. As an additional precaution it is recommended that you periodically clean the “germiest” items and also take a good look around your kitchen to identify other places that may be harboring bacteria. For more information on the prevention of foodborne illness see HGIC 3620, Foodborne Illness: Prevention Strategies.

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