Digestive Health

17 November 2015

How your kitchen utensils can spread bacteria

Your kitchen utensils, such as knives and graters may be to blame for spreading salmonella, E.coli and other harmful bacteria between different food types.

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Kitchen utensils such as knives and graters can spread bacteria between different types of produce, a new study finds.

University of Georgia researchers contaminated different types of fruits and vegetables with bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. They cut the produce with a knife or shredded it with a grater, then used the unwashed utensils on other produce.

Both utensils spread the bacteria to other types of produce, the study found.

Read: How cutting boards are germ traps

The researchers also found that certain types of produce contaminated knives to different degrees.

"For items like tomatoes, we tended to have a higher contamination of the knives than when we cut strawberries," said lead author Marilyn Erickson, an associate professor in the department of food science and technology.

"We don't have a specific answer as to why there are differences between the different produce groups. But we do know that once a pathogen gets on the food, it's difficult to remove," she said in a university news release.

Read: Bacteria can be good for you

Further testing revealed that brushes and peelers also transfer bacteria between produce.

Many people don't know that kitchen utensils can spread bacteria, Erickson said.

"Just knowing that utensils may lead to cross-contamination is important," she said. "With that knowledge, consumers are then more likely to make sure they wash them in between uses."

The study results were published recently in the journal Food Microbiology

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Good bacteria vs bad bacteria 

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Digestive Health Expert

Dr. Estelle Wilken is a Senior Specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Tygerberg Hospital. She obtained her MBChB in 1976, her MMed (Int) in 1991 and her gastroenterology registration in 1995.

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