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Spice containers may be overlooked when it comes to cross-contamination

Photo: pabst_ell/iStockphoto

After handling raw food, do you stop and wash your hands before grabbing the spices you’ll be adding? If not, you should to avoid cross-contamination, researchers from Rutgers University are saying.

After observing the behavior of 371 adults preparing turkey patties and a salad, the researchers sampled various surfaces and utensils, including spice containers, for germs. They found that nearly half of the spice containers showed signs of cross-contamination – a higher percentage than cutting boards or garbage can lids.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 48 million Americans, or 1 out of 6, get sick each year as a result of foodborne illnesses, and around 3,000 people die. 

“Our research shows that any spice container you touch when you’re preparing raw meat might get cross-contaminated,” said study co-author Donald Schaffner, a professor in the Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “You’ll want to be conscious of that during or after meal preparation.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, which commissioned the study, advises home cooks to wash their hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling raw foods to prevent cross-contamination.

The study was published in the Journal of Food Protection.

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