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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Kitchen knives and viruses

Kitchen knives and viruses 
One study highlights the risk of cross-contamination by food viruses through kitchen knives and graters

Lack of hand hygiene is one of the main causes of food poisoning in the home, as well as utensils used to prepare and handle food, through which pathogenic bacteria can be transmitted. A new study by experts at the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety finds that knives and graters can transmit viruses . This article explains how cross contamination occurs through knives, how it can be prevented and trends in foodborne diseases .
Kitchen knives and viruses
Kitchen knives and viruses 

One of the most frequent causes of gastroenteritis worldwide is the presence of norovirus , especially in products and foods ready for consumption. Research to date has shown that the point of greatest risk is the preparation of food. Hands, utensils and surfaces have a potential role in virus contamination.

Cross contamination through knives
In a recent US study published in Food and Environmental Virology , we have analyzed the transfer of viruses, specifically hepatitis A and norovirus, among a wide range of fruits and vegetables and different types of kitchen knives and graters.

The results of the research have shown that, after using sterilized knives, more than half have been contaminated after preparing an altered food. Contamination occurs whether the food is cut or grated. The level of infection differs depending on the type of virus and the food. Differences in the structure of the surface of the product influence the transfer of the virus. The smooth surface of a melon transfers more norovirus to the knife than a more rugged surface, although not the same with the hepatitis A virus. Experts have used melons, tomatoes, strawberries and cucumbers toanalyze virus transmission to Through knives and graters.

In the research, it has also been analyzed whether a contaminated knife can transfer viruses to clean fruits and vegetables. Those responsible for the study admit that "with only one contaminated blade can contaminate up to seven pieces". The results suggest, therefore, that viruses can be transmitted through food in a manner similar to that of  bacteria . From these results, experts warn that any utensil used in the kitchen can be a cross-contamination point, which also includes hands and food. The ease of virus transfer between food and utensils underscores the importance of increasing preventive measures in restoration, but also in domestic kitchens.

How to avoid cross-contamination
One of the recommendations that experts make is to wash the knife or grater after each use with a specific food, rather than leaving it on the counter, even if it is thought that it is not dirty. According to the British Food Standards Agency (FSA), cross-contamination can be:

Direct . Food is touched and contaminated or drips over others.

Indirect . Bacteria present in hands, surfaces or utensils extend into food.

Here are some tips to avoid it:

  • Wash hands after handling raw food.
  • Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods.
  • Store raw meats in airtight containers in the refrigerator.
  • Use a different cutting board , depending on whether raw or cooked foods are handled. If only one is available, wash thoroughly between one use and the next.
  • Clean knives and other utensils after each use.

Foodborne illnesses have varied over time. Tuberculosis or cholera were common for many years, but improvements in food safety, such as pasteurizing milk, canning or disinfection of water supplies, have almost completely eradicated this type of disease. However, other infections have emerged, some caused by new pathogens that spread rapidly. This change is due, in particular, to new food production practices and changes in consumption habits. Some of the most common pathogens are Salmonella, Campylobacter or E.coli .It should be borne in mind that microbiological safety of food is a dynamic issue influenced by multiple factors throughout the food chain and that relevant pathogen populations are not static. Some pathogens such as E. coli may be able to evolve and "explore" new products, such as fresh food , or generate new public health problems, such as antimicrobial resistance. In a study conducted by European experts entitled "Foodborne diseases, the challenges of 20 years still persist and emerging new" and published in International Journal of Food Microbiology , it is recognized that special emphasis is placed on norovirus, hepatitis A and Emerging viruses such as SARS.

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