The Majority of Kitchen Bacteria Are Safe

New research published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology shows that most of the germs detected in 74 kitchens dispersed across 5 different European nations were relatively benign.

Germs are tiny bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that may harm people and frequently result in different illnesses. Many often believe that germs are prevalent in our kitchens, full of water, moisture, cross-contamination, food residues, and waste.

To delve into the reality behind kitchens, researchers collected bacteria populations from sinks, cutting boards, worktops, handles, and cleaning utensils, including sponges and cloths, used in kitchens.

The scientists found eight bacterial genera often linked to environmental sources in most of the kitchens they examined, which they referred to as the "core microbiota," despite other species and significant variations in bacterial diversity between samples.

"We have previously found considerable variations in kitchen standards, food preparation practices, and cleaning regimes between France, Norway, Portugal, Romania, and Hungary."

- Birgitte Moen of The Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research

The authors emphasized that despite significant variations between study kitchens, the core microbiome was maintained. Running water, an indoor sink, and dishwashers were absent from specific kitchens.

They continued despite variations in food preparation techniques, dietary preferences, and hand-and kitchen-hygiene standards, all of which impact the risk of infection.

Much research has been done on bacteria in food, the stomach, hospitals, and commercial food production, but less is known about the germs in home kitchens.

With an existing collaboration across countries, "We had a unique opportunity to dig into this," continued Moen.

The group knew that different nations had different types of hazardous germs and that tainted food was a common way for them to reach kitchens. For instance, whereas Salmonella is the most often reported cause of foodborne disease in continental Europe, it is not an issue in Norway.

Moen concludes that understanding the germs in the average home kitchen might help avoid disease and even lead to more sanitary kitchen designs and better cleaning tools.


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