Health

Salmonella could live on your spice containers, warns study

Spices are one of the key ingredients that can enhance the flavour of any dish. While you might be more focused on what taste you’re trying to achieve when cooking, ensuring your working area stays clean could help combat the cross-contamination of germs. Especially since new research warns that harmful pathogens, which can cause diseases like salmonella, can make their way to your spice containers.

From washing up your dishes to cleaning your kitchen surfaces, the usual post-meal clean-up doesn’t tend to include wiping down your spice containers.

However, a new study, published in the Journal of Food Protection, warns that the little jars turned out to be the “unlikely culprit for spreading sickness”.

This means that germs that trigger diseases like salmonella could be living on your spice containers.

The researchers found that spice containers are the most likely to be contaminated after cooking.

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During the research, nearly half of the spice jars were found to be contaminated after a person had used them while cooking. 

Co-author of the study, Donald Schaffner, said: “Our research shows that any spice container you touch when you’re preparing raw meat might get cross-contaminated. 

“You’ll want to be conscious of that during or after meal preparation.”

In case you’re not aware, cross-contamination details the process by which microbes are transferred from one substance or object to another, often stirring up “harmful effects”.

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What’s worse, the researchers warned that “a significant portion” of illnesses like salmonella is derived from raw meats, including chicken, turkey, beef, and pork.

This means that the “harmful” germs could travel all the way from your meat of choice to your spice container.

Fortunately, the researchers believe that “proper handling of food”, including adequate cooking, consistent handwashing and sanitising of kitchen surfaces and utensils, can combat cross-contamination.

They came to this conclusion by looking at 317 adults who were instructed to cook an identical turkey burger in kitchens of varying sizes.

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To simulate the movement of pathogens in a kitchen environment, researchers infected the meat ahead of time with a bacteriophage known as “MS2” to serve as a “safe” tracer. 

Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria and have no effect on humans.

Once the meal was cooked, the researchers swabbed kitchen utensils, cleaning areas and kitchen surfaces to test for the presence of the MS2 tracer. 

However, the research team also decided to look at spice containers, sink faucets and handles, based on the subjects’ behaviours during cooking sessions.

The swabs revealed that spice containers were the most frequently contaminated objects, with around 48 percent showing traces of MS2.

Other commonly contaminated surfaces included refrigerator handles, trash can lids and cutting boards.

Interestingly, faucet handles turned out to be the least contaminated object studied.

Schaffner added: “We were surprised because we had not seen evidence of spice container contamination before.”

As scientists believe that proper hygiene could combat cross-contamination, it might be time to give those spice containers a wipe.



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