They sit on counters, stick to raw meats and love contaminating delicious foods. They're germs, and for the most part, they're completely invisible.
A recent study has revealed that preparing one meal can contaminate 90 per cent of surfaces touched, without the cook even realizing there's anything there, according to the 2012 Lysol Cross-Contamination Study.
"The kitchen is a bacteria hotspot and proper food storage and hygiene during food preparation and cooking are very important for preventing foodborne illness," says Dr. Donald Low, microbiologist-in-chief at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and Canadian member of the Hygiene Council said in the press release.
In Canada, there are an estimated 11 million cases of foodborne illnesses each year and even though most people fully recover, these illnesses can cause serious health complications and sometimes even death, according to the study. Children and elderly people with weaker immune systems are more likely to be targets of food-related complications.
But the study found one perpetrator that was responsible for spreading the most germs: our hands. When six survey volunteers were asked to prepare meats and vegetables, most of them rinsed their hands only with water -- even when soap was offered.
Most of us know that raw meats can carry harmful bacteria, but as the study reports, we often don't think about washing our hands after touching raw veggies. But just last year, an E. coli outbreak in Europe killed 18, after finding contaminated raw vegetables.
Freaking out about all those invisible bacteria around you now? Here are 10 ways to keep your kitchen germ-free -- and yes, it does starts with your hands:
Wash hands thoroughly using soap and hot water, and use a clean towel after each stage of food preparation. Simply rinsing hands under the faucet isn't good enough.
Automatic soap dispensers reduce the spread of contamination (instead of touching the pump).
Disinfect Food Areas
Clean and disinfect food preparation areas prior to contact with food and immediately after contact with any raw food like poultry, meat, fish, eggs and yes, fresh veggies.
Kitchen towels, cleaning cloths and sponges used after handling raw meat, poultry, and vegetables, should be disinfected, washed in a hot wash (greater than 60 degrees Celsius) or disposed after use.
Refrigerators and sinks are at a high risk of contamination and should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
Cooking With Raw Meats
Always cook all poultry, pork, and ground beef thoroughly above 75 degrees Celsius when using them raw.
Don't leave a plate of cooked food sitting at room temperature for longer than two hours.
Don't Mix Up Your Knives
Cut meat and vegetables with separate knives and use different cutting boards.
Wash Your Fruit
Soak, scrape, brush, scald, or wash all fruit, salad and vegetables.
Don't wash raw meats near the sink or stove before you start cooking. High temperatures should be able to destroy harmful bacteria in raw meats while you're cooking.