Research – University Of São Paulo: Study Shows That Spice Bottles Can Be Vectors Of Contamination During Food Preparation

India Education Diary

Did you know that when preparing an everyday meal, the simple act of cutting meat and vegetables and then seasoning them without washing your hands first can expose you to dangerous contamination?

In a study published in the Journal of Food Protection, researchers from the State University of New Jersey, in partnership with the State University of North Carolina, in the United States, indicated that, during the preparation of meals, seasoning containers can be contaminated with microorganisms harmful to health.

According to Daniele Maffei, researcher at the Food Research Center and professor at USP’s Luiz de Queiroz School of Agriculture (Esalq), the intention of the study was to evaluate cross-contamination on surfaces and kitchen utensils used during meal preparation. Cross-contamination happens when bacteria or other microorganisms that are on one surface are transferred to another; food, for example. “Foodborne outbreaks of foodborne illness occur everywhere in the world, including Brazil. And many of these outbreaks may involve cross-contamination,” she says.

In the study, the behavior of 371 people was evaluated during the preparation of a meal consisting of a raw ground turkey burger and a ready-to-eat salad. To simulate the movement of a pathogen in a kitchen, the researchers inoculated a bacteriophage known as MS2 into meat. It works as a kind of safe tracker, as it infects bacteria, but it doesn’t cause any problems for human health.

“The researchers used swabs to analyze the surfaces of kitchen utensils, including seasoning bottles, containers that are not always evaluated in cross-contamination studies”, explains Daniele. From then on, the scientists observed that the presence of the marker was detected on all types of surfaces analyzed. “The frequency with which this happened for most surfaces was less than 20%, however, in the case of spice bottles, scientists detected the material in up to 48% of the samples, that is, almost half of them.”

In view of this, the specialist points out that it is essential that we take some precautions to avoid cross-contamination, including the correct cleaning of food, countertops, sinks, kitchen utensils and, mainly, seasoning containers, before and after each use. All this, using the correct products to do this cleaning.

“Good practices in food handling are essential to prevent contamination and the occurrence of outbreaks, both in relation to the proper cooking of these foods and not forgetting to wash our hands frequently, in addition to the constant hygiene of work surfaces”, he concludes.

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