Research Shows How Easily Bacteria Can Thrive and Spread in the Kitchen


No matter how clean your kitchen may be, common bacteria can lurk on cooking tools and other hard, non-porous surface areas. Research shows that E. coli, salmonella and staph can thrive on dishes and other kitchen surfaces.(1) Whether putting away groceries or rinsing fresh vegetables, even the most careful cook can pass bacteria to new kitchen surfaces through the simple process of preparing a dish.

To help spread awareness about safe kitchen practices, the Palmolive® brand partnered with Donald W. Schaffner, PhD, microbiologist and professor at Rutgers University. As an author of nearly 100 food microbiology studies, Schaffner was among the first to quantify how bacteria transfer during common kitchen tasks.

To demonstrate how easily cross-contamination can occur, Schaffner conducted a comprehensive review of his bacterial studies and those of leading universities and institutions worldwide that specialize in food safety research. Key research findings from this analysis include:

- Bacterial build-up on cutting boards: Bacteria on a cutting board can double after 10 minutes of use, whether cutting raw meat or vegetables.(2)

- Cutting board cross-contamination: Ten percent of bacteria on a cutting board can transfer to lettuce while chopping.(3)

- Survival of E. coli on dishes: E. coli that remains on washed and dried dishes can survive up to three days.(4)

"Studies consistently demonstrate how easily bacteria spread throughout a kitchen both bacteria-contaminated foods and hands can pass bacteria to dishes, cooking utensils and other ingredients," says Schaffner. "Yet, according to the research, even when cooks understand the ways bacteria can spread, they often fail to follow the simple precautions that can help reduce the risk of bacterial cross-contamination in the kitchen."

Consumers generally understand the causes of cross-contamination, such as not washing or changing the cutting board and other utensils between the preparation of meat and ready-to-eat foods.(5) Despite this knowledge, many do not practice these safety measures while preparing meals. A recent study revealed that two-thirds of consumers failed to adequately wash hands after handling raw chicken, nearly 30 percent failed to wash or change the cutting board after cutting raw chicken and one-third failed to wash or change a knife used to cut raw chicken before cutting raw vegetables.(6)

"We know that consumers want to do everything they can to keep their kitchens clean and their families safe," says Dave Wilcox, vice president of product safety, regulatory & quality for Colgate-Palmolive. "Using Ultra Palmolive® Antibacterial Dish Liquid to clean knife blades, dishes and other hard, nonporous kitchen surfaces throughout your cooking prep and clean-up process is a simple step that can help put your cooks minds at ease."

Easy steps can help reduce the risk of bacterial cross-contamination:

- Wash reusable grocery bags regularly in the washing machine and use separate bags for raw meats, raw vegetables and other food products.

- Use a glass cutting board when slicing raw meats and vegetables. The surfaces of plastic and wood cutting boards can be cut by knives during food preparation, and bacteria can hide in these porous areas.

- Wash any dishes, utensils or other hard non-porous kitchen surfaces that may have touched raw eggs or meat before moving on to your next prep task.

- Clean as you go, washing knives, cutting boards, dishes, prep tools and other hard, non-porous kitchen surfaces after each use with a dish liquid to kill bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Staph during the cooking process.

Ultra Palmolive® Antibacterial Dish Liquid, launched in October 2010, is the only dish liquid approved to kill 99.9 percent of E. coli, Salmonella and Staph on dishes and non-porous surfaces in 30 seconds when used as directed. It is currently available at mass retailers and grocery stores nationwide.


6. "Cooking Practices in the KitchenObserved Versus Predicted Behavior." 2009. Risk Analysis, Vol. 29, No. 4. DOI: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2008.01189.x

5. "Bacterial Contamination of Hands Increases Risk of Cross-contamination among Low-income Puerto Rican Meal Preparers." 2009. Journal of Nutritional Educational Behavior, Vol. 41:389-397

4. "The survival of foodborne pathogens during domestic washing-up and subsequent transfer onto washing-up sponges, kitchen surfaces and food." 2002. International Journal of Food Microbiology, Vol. 85 (2003): 213 226.

3. "Quantification and Variability analysis of Bacterial Cross-Contamination Rates in Common Food Service Tasks." 2001. Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 64, No. 1: 7280.

2. "Use of Microbial Modeling and Monte Carlo Simulation to Determine Microbial Performance Criteria on Plastic Cutting Boards in Use in Foodservice Kitchens." 2004. Food Protection Trends, Vol. 24, No. 1: 14-19.

1. "The importance of hygiene in the domestic kitchen: Implications for preparation and storage of food and infant formula." 2009. Perspectives in Public Health, March. Vol. 129 No. 2 l.

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