(WJW) — While we’d like to think of the room where we prepare food as being the most sparkly clean room in our home, the kitchen no doubt has some suspicious spots. Those cutting boards, refrigerator handles and sink drains could get pretty fishy.
But a recent study by the International Association for Food Protection found a surprising culprit as a place where cross-contamination is most likely to occur while cooking up a feast – your spice cabinet.
In the study, researchers watched 371 participants who were not informed that their food safety behaviors were under the spotlight until after they finished preparing a meal of ground turkey burgers and salad. Instead, they were told that the purpose of the study was to evaluate “new recipes.”
Several kitchens, ranging from small apartment-style kitchens to larger teaching kitchens and food banks, were used for the study. Before and after the meal prep, areas throughout the kitchens were swabbed including kitchen utensils, cleaning areas, kitchen surfaces.
The study shows that while most surfaces, like cutting boards and faucets, did not exceed a 20% positivity for cross-contamination of the tracer organism, bacteriophage MS2 – spice containers reached a whopping 48%.
Spice containers also had the highest MS2 concentrations, suggesting that spice containers are a vehicle for cross-contamination.
How many times have you actually stopped to wash your hands when deciding your dish needs more pizzazz?
Researchers in the study observed there was a “lack of attempts made to wash hands between handling the ground turkey and seasoning the patties with the spices, the lack of attempts made to clean or sanitize the spice containers after handling, and the high number of times the containers were handled.”
The study suggests you may not necessarily think to wipe down or decontaminate spice containers after cooking because they are not typically thought of as high risk for cross-contamination in consumer messaging; Unlike cutting boards and faucets, which are pushed as germ magnets.
The team says these findings may be the start to important changes in future messaging for consumer food safety.