Your Kitchen Is Not as Clean as You Think

If you're a smoothie lover, take note. Eight spots in your kitchen -- including the indispensable blender and a few other unexpected areas -- may be alive with foodborne pathogens potent enough to sicken you and your family, a new study from a leading safety organization has found.

Blenders and can openers were tainted with traces of E.coli, and salmonella, according to swab samples from 20 home kitchens tested by NFS International, a global health and safety organization originally known as the National Sanitation Foundation. Rubber spatulas were covered with E. coli, yeast and mold. Nasty bugs were even found inside the refrigerator vegetable drawers. (Updated: An earlier version of this story identified blenders and can openers as tainted with listeria andrubber spatulas as contaminated with salmonella and listeria.)

The top germiest spot was the innocent-looking refrigerator water dispenser.

That dispenser lever was just one of the 42 percent of kitchen surfaces on which "concerning levels" yeast or mold were found to be coating the surface, said Lisa Yakas, a microbiologist at NSF International. Mold and yeast can cause allergic reactions and respiratory ailments in some people.

The blender was one of the most surprising germ factories. Most people may think they're fine if they wash out the glass container, but that's not the problem.

"Smoothies are popular these days," Yakas said. "We found people don't take their blenders apart when they wash them. They just take the lid off and put the whole jar and blade assembly together in the dishwasher. Some people can't get that blade unscrewed any more because it's so caked together."

Another dirty area: the freezer ice maker.

"It's a case of what most people perceive to be clean," said Yakas. "Most people think they're putting a clean glass or clean cup up there. But it's a place people can touch. It's a place people don't wash frequently so there can be (germ) buildup over time."

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Bill Briggs
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