Skip to main content

The Surprising Culprits: Lesser Known Sources of Foodborne Illness

Jan 8, 2024

Foodborne illnesses are often associated with undercooked meat, raw eggs or contaminated produce. While these are well-known sources of foodborne illnesses, several lesser-known culprits are hiding in our kitchens and homes that can also pose a significant risk to our health. Learn more about these surprising sources of foodborne illness and gain practical advice on preventing them.

The unseen threats

Contaminated kitchen tools

One of the lesser-known sources of foodborne illness is contaminated kitchen tools. Cutting boards, knives and can openers can harbor harmful bacteria if not properly cleaned and sanitized. When these tools come into contact with raw meat, poultry or seafood, they can transfer pathogens to other foods, causing cross-contamination.

"Cross-contamination in the kitchen is a serious concern. It's essential to use separate cutting boards for raw meat and other foods and to clean and sanitize all kitchen tools and surfaces regularly," said Angelique Szymanski, M.S., R.D., Inspira dietitian.

Dish towels and sponges

Many people overlook dish towels and sponges when it comes to food safety. They can become breeding grounds for bacteria, especially when they stay damp for extended periods. When used to wipe down countertops or dry dishes, these items can transfer bacteria to surfaces or utensils, ultimately contaminating your food.

To prevent contamination, replace dish towels and sponges regularly and launder them in hot water with bleach to kill harmful bacteria. Consider using disposable paper towels for cleaning surfaces.

Reusable grocery bags

Many cities have banned single-use plastic bags, and consumers switched to reusable grocery bags. While this is an eco-friendly choice, these bags can carry pathogens picked up from various surfaces, including shopping cart handles and checkout counters. The bacteria can transfer to your food items when placing groceries in these bags.

“Reusable grocery bags should be washed and sanitized regularly,” said Szymanski. “Think about designating specific bags for meats and produce to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.”

Also, remember to always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, especially after touching potentially contaminated items like reusable bags or dish towels.

By taking simple precautions and practicing good hygiene, we can reduce the risk of foodborne illness and ensure the safety of our meals. Stay informed, stay safe and keep your kitchen a haven for healthy cooking.

Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.

Topics: Nutrition, Health and Wellness