Now that we know all about cross contamination, it is about time to explore the second magic C that stands for Cleaning. Maintaining a clean kitchen is very important. While this is not a big secret really, not everybody would agree with the same definition of a “clean kitchen”?
We mainly refer to the cleanliness of those surfaces that come into contact with food, namely:
- Sponges, towels and any other type of fabric used in the kitchen
- Kitchen utensils such as pans, cutlery, etc
Before going any further, I feel like reminding you that not all microbes are harmful for humans (in fact most of them aren’t!) and therefore there is no reason to become a hypochondriac. Anything you read from now on can be used as a guide to help you identify where you need to focus on when cleaning your kitchen.
These are all surfaces that come into contact with foods, before or after cooking, including kitchen benches, tables and I will also include chopping boards (although these can also be classified as utensils).
Make sure that all worktops are cleaned thoroughly before and after use. Be extra careful after handling raw meat, chicken or fish (to refresh your memory see again cross contamination).
Avoid leaving food leftovers on worktops for long. Microbes need food, water, warm temperature and time to multiply – sex is not necessary in this case. Food leftovers in room temperature offer the ideal environment for microbial proliferation. The longer foods remain on worktops the more time the microbes have to multiply.
As explained before, it is very important not to leave cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw (e.g. salads) on surfaces where raw meat or fish was handled before. Wash those surfaces thoroughly with hot water and soap after use. Cooking kills microbes but cooked food is, well, already cooked!
Apply common sense when it comes to cleaning surfaces that do not come into direct contact with food such as floors, cupboards, etc. They need to be clean but they are not a priority. Getting into the habit to clean the fridge every time it’s almost empty will also be beneficial.
Sponges, towels, cleaning cloths
Again, all these fabrics offer a great environment for microbial proliferation and consist potential sources of contamination. As usual the solution is to wash reusable cloths often and replace them when required. Additionally, leaving them to dry before reuse helps to reduce the possibility of spreading germs because of reduced water availability. Finally, it would be preferable to use one towel to clean the worktops and another one to dry the dishes to avoid cross contamination.
For all the reasons mentioned above, ensure that all kitchen utensils, especially those that are used often such as cutlery, are always clean and shinny!
Never forget to wash your hands before, during and after handling food! More specifically:
- Before starting cooking
- After handling raw meat, chicken or fish
- After visiting the loo or the resting room for those at the other end of the Atlantic.
- After touching the litter bin or litter generally
- After stroking your pet – if a germ if harmless for them does not mean it is for us too.
Drying hands also limits the spread of microbes. A towel used for this purpose only or even some kitchen roll would do the job.
As before, the FSA website provides further very useful information: http://tna.europarchive.org/20100929190231/http://www.eatwell.gov.uk/keepingfoodsafe/cleaning/
Instructions on how to wash your hands re available by the World Health Organisation (WHO) at: http://www.who.int/gpsc/clean_hands_protection/en/index.html