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Medical Food handling questions

  1. Dec 16, 2007 #1
    I live in housing for students where we share a kitchen and prepared meals nightly. I'll watch people cooking the meals for everybody handle food with their bare hands and pick up shared food in the fridge like blocks of cheese with their bare hands. And when suggest that they not do so, they'll say something like, "You're serious?" or "It's okay, I washed my hands." I'd like to find a bunch articles that explain why you shouldn't handle food other people eat bare handed. I tried the CDC and local health departments websites but couldn't find any thing useful. I seems most articles are just geared toward getting people to wash their hands which is good, but I don't believe that is sufficient sanitation, especially in a setting where food is shared among so many people. Any help pointing me in the right direction would be appreciated.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2007
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  3. Dec 16, 2007 #2

    Moonbear

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    There's nothing particularly wrong with handling food bare handed...if you wash your hands. People are often more conscientious about washing their hands if they can feel the food on them than if they put on gloves and touch everything.

    More important, they should not be touching things like raw meat and then handling something eaten raw like salad greens or cheese without thoroughly washing their hands.

    You'd also want to make sure that the food preparation surfaces are properly sanitized...that's more likely a problem in a common kitchen. If someone just gives the counter a swipe with a damp sponge, that's not going to be clean enough for someone else to prepare food there. Keeping a bottle of disinfectant out would probably help. Same for the shelves in the fridge...do people clean spills well, or leave those bacteria for the next person to put their food on?

    So, focus on hand washing and cleaning the surfaces.
     
  4. Dec 16, 2007 #3

    turbo

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    If you want clean surfaces, mix up a 50:50 solution of rubbing alcohol and water and keep spray bottles of that around. Stuff that's not real soluble in water will often be soluble in that alcohol, so it cleans a wide range of dirt. This solution is a killer window-cleaner, and it's the only thing I ever used to clean eyeglasses in my optical lab. It disinfects, but it's not harsh or irritating like chlorine bleach, ammonia, etc. If I'm handling food and want a quick clean-up between preparing courses, I grab that spray bottle, wet my hands and scrub a bit.
     
  5. Dec 16, 2007 #4

    Moonbear

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    Just use caution that it's only used to clean surfaces and not sprayed when there is open food on the counter. You don't want to get isopropyl alcohol into your food. However, it is likely a lot safer to use for frequently cleaning surfaces than a lot of commercially available disinfectants, because it will quickly evaporate and not leave residues that can get into your food.
     
  6. Dec 16, 2007 #5

    turbo

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    By the way, if you want a nice fresh scent in your cleaning solution, you can add a few drops of Oil of Wintergreen to each spray-bottle as you make them up. If you're cleaning counter-tops, tables, and other food-prep surfaces, this is WAY better than most commercial cleaners. The best way to make this stuff work is to stock up on shop-rags or terrycloth wash-cloths. Use your solution and wipe down with a clean cloth, and toss that cloth in the laundry.

    Wiping down work areas with dish-washing cloths or sponges is a sure way to encourage bacteria.
     
  7. Dec 17, 2007 #6
    Last year I think it was there was a huge outbreak of norovirus in one of our university dormitories that basically started with the cafeteria salad bar, and any of the areas where food was left out for people to dish up themselves. It was caused by poor hygiene spreading the virus, some people had less than desirable hand washing practices which resulted in the fecal-oral transmission of the enteric norovirus. Ended up infecting nearly an entire tower and they had to completely close the cafeteria and no one was allowed in or out of the building except residents.

    Also as others mentioned make sure the countertops are disinfected regularily after meal preparation and that handwashing also occurs throughout preparing the meal.
     
  8. Dec 18, 2007 #7
    I remember visiting the Mutter museum in Philly and they had an exhibit on the dirtiest places in a house. Did you know which room is typically the dirtiest? It wasn't the bathroom but it was the kitchen. If you don't keep a kitchen washed properly then it can be an excellent breeding ground for bacteria. You should microwave your sponges after using them for about 45 seconds on high (just don't melt them) to kill bacteria in them. Sponges were one of the worst things in the kitchen. Also don't use your hands to open the fridge door or turn on the faucet after touching raw meat.
     
  9. Dec 18, 2007 #8

    brewnog

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    Hells bells!

    Why is everyone so obsessed with sterilising kitchen utensils, cleaning implements and hands these days?! Our predecessors have got by just fine without antibacterial kitchen spray and antiseptic hand wash for quite a number of thousands of years. While I appreciate good kitchen hygiene (particularly when handling raw meat), I also ate a good deal of dirt when I was a lad and it never did me any harm!

    I maintain that the reason for me never having caught a cold is due to my parents raising me on dirt and soap, rather than Milton and antibacterial hand wash.
     
  10. Dec 18, 2007 #9
    Yeah but we will never know if our ancestors were dying off more then than we do now from e. coli tainted spinach and from other tainted food because they didn't know about it in the first place back in the day.
     
  11. Dec 18, 2007 #10

    turbo

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    The OP was a reasonable plea for help, and it deserved a reasonable answer. Unlike brewnog, I am not so complacent that I think that co-habitating students ought to be swapping their germs willy-nilly. That's not a good idea, nor is it a smart way to build up one's immune system.
     
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