5 gross habits that are ruining your kitchen hygiene

Still using that kitchen sponge that's three years old? You might want to rethink after you've read this

pouring cleaning fluid on to a sponge scourer
(Image credit: Getty)

How good is your kitchen hygiene? It turns out that, unfortunately, many of us are putting our health at risk while using our kitchens, without even realising it. In early 2020, the Food Standards Agency cited that there are an estimated 2.4 million cases of food poisoning occurring in the UK on an annual basis, with 380,000 annual cases of norovirus also being linked to food preparation and consumption in the UK. That's a lot of food poisoning that's entirely preventable. 

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Oliver’s Kitchen have quizzed more than 1,600 of its customers on their kitchen hygiene practices, and the results of the survey show that more than of the respondents were guilty of kitchen habits that are unhealthy. Find out what they are below, so that you can avoid making the same mistakes.

1. Never cleaning the microwave thoroughly

Can a microwave give you food poisoning? Oh yes, yes, it can. If you only use your microwave to reheat food that's in a closed container, you're probably good. However, if you ever used your microwave to cook raw food, especially meat, you will get splatters on the walls and ceiling that could be harbouring salmonella or E.coli. With that in mind, give the inside of your microwave a good wipe-down with an antibacterial spray every couple of weeks (and always after cooking raw meat in it).

2. Not thoroughly cleaning a chopping board after cutting raw meat on it

This one's pretty self-explanatory, and yet, a shocking 73 per cent of people admit to not doing this. No, it's not enough to just rinse your chopping board. It's made from plastic, pop it in the dishwasher; if it's made from food – give it a thorough scrub under hot running water. Dry out fully before using again. 

3. Not deep cleaning the oven regularly 

We get it: cleaning the oven is everyone's least favourite task. It's boring, it's inconvenient, and it takes ages. And yet. 'But it's hot in there, so don't all the bacteria die?', you may ask. That's as may be, but bacteria definitely don't die on oven handles and hob knobs. Plenty of studies have confirmed that some oven handles have more bacteria on them than toilet seats. Eugh. So, disinfect oven handles and anything else you may have touched after every use.

4.  Not cooling food quickly enough before storing it in the fridge

That thing your read about how it's dangerous to to reheat rice? The problem is not the rice, as it turns out, but the amount of time you left it out for before popping it in your food container and into the fridge. You should refrigerate all cooked food no more than 30-40 minutes after you've cooked it, or you risk food poisoning after eating your leftovers the next day. 

5. Failing to change a dishcloth/sponge regularly

Your sponge is the dirtiest thing if your kitchen, hosting millions of bacteria. According to one study, kitchen sponges have 200,000 times more bacteria on them than toilet seats. Think about it: it's a sponge, it was designed to absorb stuff. Washing it after you've washed your dishes does help, but only up to a point. A dish sponge that's been used for longer than three months is not safe to use and could reintroduce harmful bacteria onto your dishes and kitchen surfaces. We say: chuck it and get a silicone dish scrubber or e-cloth instead.