Paula Wolfson, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - Foodborne diseases hit one in six Americans every year, and many people get sick from germs in their own homes.
"The risk of getting contaminated food in your own kitchen is probably the greatest risk out there," says Elaine Lidholm, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.
She attributes part of the problem to negligence and part of it to complacence. With spring cleaning season in full swing, she stresses it is not enough just to wipe surfaces down.
Lidholm says there is a big difference between wiping something down and sanitizing it. People should go beyond the countertops, sink and stove. Faucet handles and cutting boards need to be cleaned as well, especially with a commercial cleaning product or a weak bleach solution.
Dish cloths and towels should be washed regularly. Kitchen sponges can be thrown in the dishwasher, where the water gets hot enough to kill bacteria.
Another breeding ground for germs is reusable grocery bags.
"There are certainly risks with them if you don't clean them and sanitize them," says Lidholm. "If you use the same bag from week to week, and you never wash it in hot water or dry it in the dryer or out in the sunshine... probably you are letting contaminants collect in there."
The same goes for soft lunch coolers. A metal or plastic lunch box is fairly easy to clean. But Lidholm says the soft coolers should go in the laundry.
For more information on combating food germs, go to the website for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, and type "food safety" in the search bar.
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