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Working from home and cooking more? Avoid these bad kitchen habits

Now that you are cooking at home more, here is a guide for better food hygiene

Most of us are spending more time working from home or staying in on the weekends due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

And some of us are using this opportunity to channel our inner domestic goddess to whip up home-cooked meals.

But in this climate, not only do we have to practise good hygiene by washing our hands often, we have to ensure food prep is done properly.

Here are the seemingly harmless but ultimately bad kitchen hygiene habits that may cause you and your loved ones to fall sick easily.

Following the five-second rule

Whether you believe in this food myth half- or whole-heartedly, it is best to exercise caution when dealing with food that has been dropped.

It really depends on the surface it has fallen on too - according to research, tile, stainless steel and wood have much higher bacteria transfer rates than carpet.

So consume at your own risk, but those with more vulnerable immune systems (children and older folk) should probably avoid the five-second rule.

Not sealing food properly

Leaving open cans and containers in the fridge is to be avoided. Your fridge has a whole host of bacteria and leaving an entire pot of food inside unsealed could risk cross-contamination. Use containers with proper lids that ensure air does not get in.

Forgetting to rinse cutlery and utensils

Even if your cutlery or plates look clean, it does not mean they are. Especially if they are left exposed on the kitchen countertop, they may be vulnerable to bacteria left behind by creepy crawlies that come out in the middle of the night.

Letting your pets in the kitchen

This is a potential health hazard as animals carry a lot of bacteria and germs, especially after they have been out on a walk or just pooped as their faeces carry bacteria and parasites.

Not cleaning the sink

It might seem silly to wash your sink, but food debris and bacteria could still be lingering in your sink and lead to illnesses like E.coli and salmonella if left unclean.

To clean, remove everything from the sink first. Use gentle, non-toxic soap, warm water and a soft cloth to clean the basin, drain, faucet, tap area and rim of the sink. You can also pour hot water down the drain to sanitise hard-to-reach areas and remove any gunk. This helps reduce odours too.

Not cleaning your cutting board properly

Each time you use your cutting board, make sure to clean it properly as bacteria and food particles can get into the crevices of the board.

Wash with hot water and soap, especially if the cutting board was used for raw meat or seafood. Never slice raw meat on the same cutting board you use to chop vegetables or cut fruits.

Using the same sponge for too long

Ironically, the sponge you use to scour dishes clean is also the dirtiest part of your kitchen. If not properly sanitised and replaced every so often, it becomes a vehicle for transferring bacteria to plates, pots and utensils.

Microwaving your damp sponge for 120 seconds kills 99 per cent of germs, and make sure to dry it properly in-between uses.

If you leave your sponge at the bottom of the sink, you are allowing it to soak in a puddle of its own germs. Get a plastic holder that lets you hang it on the side of the sink instead.

And just as with the cutting board, never use the same sponge for everything.

Rinsing meat in the sink

Whenever you wash meat in the sink, water droplets splash about, and if you are not careful, these could end up on your plates or cutlery, contaminating them.

As a guide, avoid rinsing meat and poultry. The best way to destroy harmful bacteria in them is simply by cooking them.

Leaving dish rags lying around

Many of us are guilty of leaving used and damp kitchen towels and dish cloths hanging around the sink. This is a prime breeding ground for germs.

After each use, make sure to wash the cloth and hang it out to dry properly, instead of leaving it in a crumpled heap on the sink or countertop. This reduces cross-contamination.

Defrosting meat on the countertop

Contrary to popular opinion, the kitchen counter is not the best place to thaw frozen food. This is because room temperature speeds up bacteria growth and allows millions of harmful microorganisms to flourish.

Instead, thaw meat overnight in the refrigerator.

Not washing hands properly

Right after handling meat or raw food, always remember to wash your hands properly with soap. Cross-contamination can cause food poisoning and you would not want that to happen to you or your family.

This article was first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly (