Food Safety Refrigerator

Published on April 17th, 2013 | by Mary Gerush


Germ Alert: Is Your Kitchen Harboring Deadly Pathogens?


When’s the last time you cleaned your refrigerator?

Can’t recall? Then it’s been too long according to a recent germ study by NSF International, a non-profit organization that monitors the safety of food, water, air, and other items. The results will make you cringe — and make haste to grab some rubber gloves and cleanser.

Your kitchens are downright filthy.

In 2011, an NSF International study showed that the kitchen is one of the germiest rooms in the house. This year’s study took a deeper dive and asked 20 families to swab 14 kitchen items: the blender, can opener, flatware storage tray, food storage containers with rubber seals, knife block, microwave keypad, pizza cutter, spatula, strainer and the refrigerator ice dispenser, water dispenser, and meat and vegetable compartments.

A few disturbing stats: 25% of the items tested were contaminated with E. Coli bacteria, 25% with Salmonella, and 10% with Listeria. Yeast and mold were found on 100% of the items, with six showing concerning levels of mold. Ewww. (Or as my friend Pam and I said in our preteen years: “Grossy McDossy!”)

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases each year. A CDC study also shows plant foods, like leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables, to be the primary source for these illnesses. If you don’t want to become a statistic, it’s time to think clean.

How To Manage Your Kitchen’s Top 5 Germiest Habitats

NSF International provides some handy cleaning advice for most of the items identified as having high potential for contamination by dangerous pathogens. Here are the top 5 adapted from their list. You can see the entire list of recommendations on the NSF International web site.

Top 5 Germiest Places

The group provides a few additional valuable hints for storing your produce mindfully:

  • Keep washed and packaged produce separate from raw unwashed produce.
  • Separate all produce from other foods such as raw meat, poultry or seafood.
  • Store produce on a separate shelf above all meat, poultry, and seafood to avoid raw juices dripping onto the produce.
  • Also keep produce separate in your grocery cart, during food preparation, and when using kitchen tools and appliances.

For more cleaning advice, check out these posts on the Important Media network:

So. I’ll ask again. When’s the last time you cleaned your refrigerator? Will you start doing that more frequently now that you know the results of this study? Got other great food safety tips to share?

Image Credit: The Eggplant via flickr/CC

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About the Author

Hi all! I'm Mary Gerush - a recovering corporate worker bee turned good-farm-real-food advocate and writer who wants to help people understand what they're eating. I tend a tiny urban farm in Dallas, TX, and hope to scale up one day soon. Omnivore through-and-through, there's not much I love to eat more than a butter-basted grass fed steak fresh from a searing hot cast iron skillet. Follow me on , , and !

2 Responses to Germ Alert: Is Your Kitchen Harboring Deadly Pathogens?

  1. AEM says:

    Wash fresh veggies as soon as you buy them and store in airtight containers to prevent contamination. Added benefits: Makes meal prep a lot easier and you’re more likely to use them if they’re already washed, cutting down on discarded food.

  2. John says:

    I never thought of my refrigerator can be the source of so many bacteria, now I don’t know whether to clean it or burn it….???

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