You don’t need to be a well-functioning adult to know that, while your whole house should be clean and germ-free at all times, the kitchen is the most important room that needs to be free of any harmful contamination. We all know how to keep things hygienic and healthy while preparing a meal, from washing the vegetables the right way to maintaining the right temperature while cooking meats. But did you know the germiest place in your kitchen is something that you would never even think of?
A recent study published in the Journal of Food Protection claims that your spice jars are the most contaminated spots in your kitchen.
Donald Schaffner, a professor at the Department of Food Science at the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Science, led the research team that measured the “prevalence and degrees of cross-contamination across a variety of kitchen surfaces during a consumer meal preparation event”. Their study led them to discover that the spice jars are where most bacterias are in your kitchen.
The team asked 371 participants to prepare a meal consisting of turkey patties (which contained bacteriophage MS2, which is not harmful to humans, as a tracer organism) and ready-to-eat lettuce salad.
For the experiment, half the participants were shown a video on the proper thermometer use. Following the meal prep, the researchers took samples from the environment to assess cross contamination with the MS2 in the patties.
“For most surfaces, positivity did not exceed 20 percent, with the exception of spice containers, for which 48 percent of the samples showed evidence of MS2 cross-contamination,” shared the researchers in the study. They also noted that the other measurements across surfaces corroborated what previous studies had revealed on cross-contamination.
The results surprised the researchers because no study has ever recorded any evidence of spice containers being contaminated before.
“Most research on the cross-contamination of kitchen surfaces due to handling of raw meat or poultry products has focused on kitchen cutting boards or faucet handles and has neglected surfaces like spice containers, trash bin lids, and other kitchen utensils. This makes this study and similar studies from members of this group more comprehensive than previous studies,” shared Schaffner.
If all the science jargon confused you, the moral of the study is that you should always clean everything that you touch once you’re done preparing a meal in your kitchen. And you must pay special attention to areas that you would usually skip. Happy adulting!