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A National Study of Potential Cross-contamination Resulting from Kitchen Cloths

Central Science Laboratory
Start date
End date
This research project will obtain a representative amount of information on the potential for bacterial contamination of kitchen cloths from domestic kitchens in the UK. Foodborne diseases have been associated with the domestic environment. The extent to which kitchen cloths in household in the UK could potentially contribute to food hygiene and be involved in cross-contamination has not been researched in this country over a demographically representative sample of households.

The purpose of this study is to obtain a representative amount of information on the potential for bacterial contamination of kitchen cloths from domestic kitchens in the UK. The information and knowledge resulting from this project will assist the Food Standards Agency in preparation of a publicity campaign to increase consumer knowledge of the food hygiene implications of this routinely used cloth and its potential role in cross-contamination

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The scientific state of the field will be established initially by a literature review. The methodologies for microbiological analysis of domestic kitchen cloths for a range of pathogenic, spoilage and indicator micro-organisms will also be established for the pilot study. A draft questionnaire will be prepared with assistance from a market research company.

Twenty households will be visited and their kitchen cloths will be analysed. In addition, a swab from the kitchen surface which was most often wiped with the cloth being tested will be taken and analysed. The questionnaire will be filled in during an interview with the householder. Following the pilot study the questionnaire will be modified for the national survey.

The national survey will be performed on the basis of 20 minute interviews whereby the 'in use' kitchen cloth will be collected and sent for analysis. In total 1009 cloths will be analysed for Salmonella spp. E. coli O157, Campylobacter spp. Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, Enterobacteriaceae and total viable count (TVC). The corresponding questionnaires will be analysed and entered into a database. Statistical analysis will be carried out on microbiological data and questionnaire responses.

A laboratory study will be carried out to assess the potential risk of survival and growth of the pathogenic and indicator micro-organisms that were most often identified during the national survey in domestic kitchen cloths. The effects of nutrients, temperature, moisture contents and cloth type on the survival of micro-organisms in artificially inoculated cloth sections will also be investigated. Cross-contamination from these artificially contaminated cloth sections to different surfaces are also to be investigated using a standardised method by analysing the microbial content of swabs from contact areas.

Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the Food Standards Agency Research webpage.

Funding Source
Food Standards Agency
Project number
Escherichia coli
Bacterial Pathogens