Better Kitchen Practices Will Help Reduce The Risk Of Food Borne Illnesses
July 17, 2013

Better Kitchen Practices Will Help Reduce The Risk Of Food Borne Illnesses

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Hoping to find a way to reduce the impact of food-borne diseases, researchers from the University of Hertfordshire have prepared a study analyzing what types of things people do in their kitchens and why.

The authors are hoping that the report, which was commissioned by the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA), will provide detailed insight into the methods used to prepare food in the home, and how those practices could contribute to the estimated one million cases of food-related illnesses reported in the UK each year.

The study observed kitchen-related practices in 20 households. Some of the subjects were under the age of 60, including some expectant mothers, and others were 60 years of age or older. A special focus was placed on age and pregnancy-related status due to the FSA's interest in groups believed to be especially vulnerable to food-borne illnesses.

Each household gave the researchers a tour of the kitchen, participated in interviews, and allowed them to observe their kitchen practices. The objectives of the study included an attempt to discover possible links between day-to-day meal preparation practices and food safety, as well as an effort to define the most "at risk" households in terms of their kitchen practices. They also wanted to see how those practices differed by age or pregnancy status.

"Our research found that kitchen life was a complex business -- many household activities took place in the kitchen which had little to do with food preparation or eating but these were tangled up with activities that were food-related," Dr. Wendy Wills, a reader in food and public health at the university's Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC), said in a statement. "These new insights into how people use their kitchen spaces highlight potential pathways which might lead to foodborne illness."

"Domestic kitchens are used not only for food preparation but also for other non-food related activities such as pet care, school and office work, gardening and bicycle repairs," she added. "These blurred boundaries on the use of a kitchen together with varied cleaning practices might lead to food safety and cross-contamination issues."

Wills and her colleagues discovered that people over the age of 60 were the most at risk of harm from food-borne illnesses. Among the reasons for that, the report said, was that they grew up during an era when fewer processed foods were prepared and eaten, date labeling was less widespread, and food was more likely to be considered "safe" even if it was not refrigerated. In addition, these older individuals' deteriorating senses (i.e. being less likely to be able to smell when food is spoiled) are believed to put them more at risk.

The researchers do point out, however, that their study did have some "notable gaps," including a lack of ethnic variation and of households comprised of non-related individuals living together. "There were few households with extensive health or care needs (including households with compromised immune systems), those who needed attention from a multitude of care agencies or health professionals, including individuals living in sheltered and 'extra-care' housing and those receiving services such as 'meals on wheels,'" they added.