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Special to the Post Dispatch—
Using your smartphone, tablet and laptop to look at recipes while you’re cooking is a common occurrence. However, did it ever occur to you that the usage of technology in the kitchen could be exposing your food – and yourself- to bacteria that harbors on those personal devices?
In a recent analysis from the 2016 Food Safety Survey, scientists at FDA who study consumer food safety behavior explored this idea by evaluating how frequently consumers use these devices in the kitchen and how exactly they are using them.
Amy Lando, MPP, and Michael Bazaco, Ph. D., in the Office of Analytics and Outreach at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), released what they’ve learned and what consumers can do to protect themselves.
“We take our phones everywhere – work, the store, the bathroom, the gym, and many other places,” Lando said. “It makes perfect sense to use them in the kitchen, but we also know from previous research that bacteria that because disease can survive on cell phones. Most people don’t recognize this as a safety issue.”
Although there is no hard evidence that such devices have caused foodborne illnesses, Bazco says that that’s what they plan to study next.
“We know that cell phones can harbor microorganisms, including the bacterial pathogens that cause disease,” he said. “We need more research to better understand the actual risk to consumers from using their devices while preparing food. That’s what we’re planning to study next.”
In the meantime, Lando and Bazaco say the most important things to do are to minimize contact with smartphones and other devices will cooking and to wash hands regularly during the cooking process. In fact, the researchers recommend that consumers always follow these four, core steps for practicing food safety in the kitchen:
Clean – Wash hands and surfaces often.
Separate – Don’t cross contaminate.
Cook – Cook to the safe internal temperature.
Chill – Refrigerate promptly.
“As we begin to better understand the risk associated with cross contamination from device surfaces to food, we can develop more specific advice to help consumers minimize any risk of cross contamination between devices and food,” Lando said. “Therefore, we can create a safer food preparation environment.”