According to USAToday, 1 in 7 home kitchens in America would flunk a restaurant health inspection. Based on recent study, a significant percentage of households, who completed a survey on food safety within their personal kitchens, submitted answers indicative of failure. Restaurant health inspections cover 27 points of health and food safety dealing in personnel to infrastructure to equipment. While your kitchen may not pass a health inspection, but there are some small steps you can take to make your kitchen healthier.
One of the first points of a health inspection is hand washing. Your kitchen sink should always have the necessary supplies close at hand, which include soap and paper towels. Cloths towels can retain bacteria and spread them to other users’ hands. Paper towels allow you to discard the germs. I have instituted an unwritten rule in my kitchen that requires all users to wash their hands prior to self service, even beverages. I commonly observe people washing their hands in cold water, even in restaurant kitchens. Hot water is the best deterrent for germs, along with rigorous scrubbing for 15 seconds it is the first line of defense against food borne illness.
Knowing when to wash is just as important as knowing how. Multitasking during a meal can be a real timesaver, but it can be easy to forget to wash between tasks. You should wash your hands between cleaning and food preparation to prevent contamination from chemicals or bacteria. In addition, it’s important to wash after handling raw meat or eggs to prevent spreading bacteria on other surfaces. If you have open cuts on your hands, refrain from handling any food with your bare hands as cuts are breeding grounds for bacteria which can easily transfer.
Kitchen surfaces are another point of inspection. Restaurants are required to wash, rinse, and sanitize all food prep surfaces. Sanitizing means exposing the surface of a dish to a chemical like chlorine, ammonium chloride, or iodine for a specified amount of time to kill bacteria. Most restaurants have a sanitizing dish machine to efficiently complete these three steps. Unfortunately, the average household dishwasher does not sanitize, although some dishwashers claim to provide heat sanitization. A bleach water rinse can be too much work for those accustomed to the convenience of “load and go.” The best practice is to visually inspect your dishes after washing, and before use to ensure no food particles remain. Leftover food particles can harbor bacteria which can spread to any new food placed on the dish. The convenience of disinfecting wipes makes sanitizing kitchen surfaces a breeze. You must use the wipes properly by scrubbing soiled surfaces first, then applying a film with the wipe that remains for 30 seconds.
The most important food contact surfaces are cutting boards. Cutting boards can develop grooves that maintain bacteria even after washing. Most restaurants overcome cross contamination through cutting boards by designating colored cutting boards by food type, i.e. vegetable, beef, or chicken. At a minimum, households should designate a separate cutting board for meats and vegetables. Cutting boards are relatively cheap and can be purchased in variety of colors and sizes at a local restaurant supply stores.
Pests produce a variety of concerns with regards to food surfaces. Flies, roaches, and rodents can carry bacterial organisms on their legs and contaminate the surfaces they walk on. Spraying pesticides within the kitchen introduces chemical contamination and can lead to poisoning. Restaurants are required to use food grade pesticides that are applied by licensed contractors. The key to pest management is limiting the supply of water and food available for pest and creating barriers to entry. Limiting food and water entails proper cleaning after meals, repairing leaky faucets, and using drain covers. To create a barrier, repair seals on windows and doors and engage proactive measures on the building exterior.
1 in 7 home kitchens would flunk, worse that restaurants