Research – Domestic Kitchen Microbiological Contamination and Self-Reported Food Hygiene Practices of Older Adult Consumers

Journal of Food Protection

ABSTRACT

Because of increased susceptibility, older adults have an increased risk of foodborne infection, and data suggest elevated incidence; therefore, food hygiene is essential to reduce the risk. Research suggests older adults’ inadequate knowledge and negative attitudes toward food hygiene may increase implementation of unsafe food practices. Data on microbiological contamination of domestic kitchens of older adults are lacking. Therefore, this study aimed to determine microbiological contamination of domestic kitchens of older adults. Food contact surfaces and equipment (n = 1,292) in domestic kitchens (n = 100) of older adults (≥60 years) were analyzed to isolate aerobic bacteria, Enterobacteriaceae, Staphylococcus aureus, and Listeria spp.; self-reported hygiene practices were also recorded. Highest contamination levels were determined on in-use cleaning equipment (dish brushes, dishcloths, sponges) with aerobic bacteria <9.3 log CFU per item, Enterobacteriaceae <8.8 log CFU per item, and S. aureus <7.0 log CFU per item. Reported usage length of dish brushes was significantly correlated (P< 0.05) with Enterobacteriaceae contamination. Significant correlations (P < 0.05) were determined between contamination and reported cleaning frequency of refrigerators. Contamination of hand towels in single-occupant households was significantly greater (P < 0.05) than in multioccupant households. The study facilitates novel comparison between reported hygiene practices with microbial contamination, suggesting older adults fail to implement adequate and regular hygiene practices that may increase the possibility of cross-contamination in the domestic kitchen and the associated risk of foodborne illness. Data from this study have determined a need for older adults to improve food hygiene practices in the domestic kitchen.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • In-use dish brushes and dishcloths were most commonly contaminated with high counts of bacteria.

  • Correlations existed between dishcloth contamination and multiple kitchen sites.

  • Reported dish brush usage length was significantly correlated with contamination level.

  • Reported time since cleaning of refrigerators was positively correlated with contamination levels.

  • Inadequate and irregular hygiene practices may increase foodborne illness risk to older adults.

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