According to a recent study, hospitals aren't the only places where the multi-drug-resistant bacteria E. coli may be lurking. The results of the investigation confirm what most germophobes already know: hands and cutting boards should be thoroughly washed to avoid contamination, particularly after coming into contact with raw poultry.
Along with hands, cutting boards are among the primary modes of contamination by bacteria, some of which are highly pathogenic. Cooks should be particularly vigilant when preparing poultry meat, which commonly carries the particularly antibiotic-resistant bacteria E. coli.
The rate of contamination was at the heart of a scientific inquiry led by Dr Andreas Widmer of the University Hospital of Basel. For the study, published in the latest issue of the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the doctor and his research team analysed 298 cutting boards, including 154 from hospital kitchens and 144 from households, before they had been washed. The study took note of which types of meat were prepared on each cutting board: poultry, beef, pork, lamb, game or fish. Twenty pairs of gloves used by hospital kitchen employees to handle raw poultry were also tested.
A bacterial analysis indicated that 6.5% of the cutting boards from hospital kitchens used to prepare raw poultry were contaminated with E. coli. Among the cutting boards from household kitchens, 3.5% carried the bacteria. Researchers also found that 50% of the gloves used by kitchen employees contained E. coli.
Perhaps more surprisingly, the cutting boards used for the preparation of other types of meat and fish showed no evidence of E. coli contamination. In addition, the study found that the country of origin of the meat or poultry was not linked to the presence of E. coli.
For Widmer, the results indicate that "transmission of drug-resistant E. coli occurs both in the hospital and households". The doctor also notes that the findings "emphasise the importance of hand hygiene, not only after handling raw poultry, but also after contact with cutting boards used in poultry preparation".
Cooks take note. The impact is all the more important as home cooks generally follow less drastic hygiene protocols than those working in professional kitchens. – AFP/Relaxnews, April 12, 2014.