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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Eating places germier than restrooms: Study

A new study has found that eating areas are commonly contaminated.
Asia One - November 28, 2012
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Eating places germier than restrooms: Study

SINGAPORE - Mothers may think the restroom contains the most germs in school, but a swab test shows otherwise, a new study has found.

It was discovered that eating areas are commonly contaminated, which means that school children, teachers and staff are highly at risk of picking up bacteria while eating at canteens.

This could be because people are unaware at the ease at which cross-contamination occurs in unexpected surroundings.

Even in a "safe" environment such as a typical family kitchen, cross-contamination can occur during food preparation and storage.

The Global Hygiene Council and hygiene products manufacturer Dettol conducted two studies this year: The Back to School Study and Cross-contamination Study.

In the Cross-contamination study, it was found that people are exposed to the threat of food borne illnesses even while enjoying home-cooked meals in the comfort of their homes.

It was found that people pay minimal attention to disinfection during food preparation, causing easy transfer of bacteria from raw food to secondary surfaces such as ready-to-eat food, and various surfaces in the kitchen.

Half of the people studied washed raw chicken and food in the sink, potentially contaminating the sink.

People in the study were also generally unaware that vegetables and salad are a source of bacterial contamination. They often did not wash their salad items, their hands after handling these items or use separate chopping boards and knives for vegetables and ready-to-eat foods.

Most of the contamination in the kitchen was caused by inadequate handwashing and sanitisation.

If poor hygiene was practised, 87 per cent of secondary surfaces was found to be covered with bacteria, the study discovered.

This indicates that even ready-to-eat foods such as apples can pose as infection threats to family members. Bacteria can also spread to other parts of the house through hand contact.

In 86 per cent of occasions, taps were contaminated, so clean hands became re-contaminated after washing.

Up to 90 per cent of hand-contact surfaces, like radios and water bottles can get contaminated and furthermore, these items are unlikely to be cleaned regularly, thus providing the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

Bacterial contamination can lead to problems such as food poisoning and diarrhoea, contracting seasonal colds, the flu or Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.

As hands are one of the major causes of cross-contamination, the researchers recommended proper handwashing with antibacterial soap at key times during food preparation to prevent bacteria from spreading.

Surface cleaning and targeted disinfection were also recommended.

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