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What's Worse: Dropping Food in the Kitchen Sink or on the Kitchen Floor?
Wrong, wrong, 500 times wrong, says Kelly Reynolds,
Ph.D., an assistant professor of microbiology at the University of
Arizona. While the
floor may be crawling with 1,000 bacteria per square inch, the sink
hosts around 500,000 bacteria per square inch -- and she's seen sinks
millions more than that. "The sink is a ready source of bacteria just
washing off hands as well as food, which may carry fecal bacteria." The
number of bacteria it takes to make us sick depends on the type, but
Reynolds says that it takes between 100 and 1,000 bacteria to transmit
salmonella, which is the most frequently reported cause of foodborne
Reynolds says our kitchen sinks are often dirtier than the toilets of public bathrooms, which may be regularly scrubbed with powerful disinfectants. "If you dropped something in the toilet at the gas station, would you rinse it off and eat it? Use the same mentality for your sink."[Next: What to do if you drop food in the sink]
Now, if you were about to boil those vegetables, you'll probably be fine, as most germs are obliterated by high cooking temperatures. But if salad dressing was the only thing you were planning to pour on those carrots, Reynolds advises a vigorous, no-joke rinse. "Rub the dropped produce with your hands under running water, as that dislodges the bacteria and rinses it down the drain." (Do the same thing if food falls on the floor.)
To reset your sink's bacteria count back to zero, Reynolds suggests regularly washing it with hot water and diluted bleach (she does this every day before preparing dinner). "You can also buy disinfectant sprays, but I find regular bleach to be cheaper and more effective." If you do this after meals, you can even toss in your dishtowels. Reynolds says that that if you can smell mold, the towel is basically crawling with germs.
Bottom line: The floor is by no means germ-free, but the kitchen sink is far worse. Prepare your salad over a disinfected countertop, instead.