Americans seem to have a bit of a double standard regarding food preparation and safety, according to a survey by NSF International, a global public health and safety organization.
NSF International’s 2013 Kitchen Pet Peeve Survey found four out of five Americans (82 percent) have made at least one food safety mistake when cooking for others, such as forgetting to wash their hands before preparing food or serving something that fell on the floor. Yet, most Americans (96 percent) find those same mistakes disturbing when committed by others.
For example, the survey shows that 76 percent of Americans are disturbed by seeing others “double dip” to taste food while preparing a meal. However 36 percent admitted to doing the very same thing when preparing a meal for others!
In addition, 84 percent of respondents find it disturbing when people don’t wash their hands before preparing food, yet 20 percent said they have been guilty of that food preparation faux pas.
Perhaps some of these mistakes are the reason why guests are leaving with more than just a party favor. The survey found that 43 percent of respondents report they have gotten sick or had an upset stomach after eating something at a dinner party or gathering outside of their home.
“Food safety behavior is typically learned in the home by watching friends and relatives cook, so it’s not surprising that there is confusion and misunderstanding around what constitutes proper food safety,” said Cheryl Luptowski, home safety expert at NSF International. “Whether it’s washing chicken or turkey in the sink or handling food while sick, Americans need to be educated about proper food preparation safety to avoid dangerous behavior and protect themselves and those they are inviting into their homes.”
The pet peeves don’t end at dinner. The survey shows 87 percent of respondents are almost as bothered by post-meal clean-up mistakes as by the behaviors of people when cooking. The most common annoyance is when others use the dish towel for tasks aside from drying dishes (66 percent).
Other bothersome offenses include leaving the sponge or dishcloth lying in the sink (58 percent), using the same sponge or cloth to clean the dishes and wipe the counters (57 percent) and putting kitchen items or utensils away before they are fully dry (57 percent).
Other party manners to keep in mind this holiday season include:
• Keep your germs to yourself: Respondents are more likely to be disgusted by guests who cough or sneeze near food (84 percent) than they are by guests who double dip (78 percent). Seventy-six percent of respondents are repelled by dinner party guests who put their hands on their nose or mouth and then touch the food.
• Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold: Sixty-two percent of Americans say they are offended by hosts who leave perishable or leftover food sitting out for too long (two hours maximum time).
• Don’t handle food while sick. Three quarters (78 percent) of Americans are disturbed when other people who are sick handle food while cooking, although one quarter (25 percent) of respondents have done so themselves.
“It’s important to protect yourself and your dinner guests from unwanted germs and bacteria—and it’s very easy to do so,” said Ms. Luptowski. “By following simple steps, you can truly enjoy dinner parties and gatherings without having to worry about guests getting sick or offended.”
To keep you and your guests free from kitchen safety mishaps, follow these tips from NSF International:
• Wash your hands frequently. Germs and illnesses spread easily from personal contact. Wash hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds both before and after handling food, especially when handling raw items. Teach children the importance of proper handwashing at an early age. Tools and fun activities can be found at scrubclub.org.
• Clean kitchen utensils with soap and water after each use. Utensils should be thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water after each use. NSF’s Germ Study found Salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold on common kitchen appliances such as blender gaskets, can openers and rubber spatulas because the items were not properly disassembled and then cleaned and dried before storage.
• Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Never let perishable foods sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. Keep cold items in the refrigerator until just before you serve them, and then place their dishes in bowls of ice to help keep the food properly cooled. For hot items, always use warming dishes or slow cookers, or store them in the oven if possible.
• Don’t double dip with either fingers or utensils. Double dipping can spread germs to an entire room full of guests. Even though you may be cooking something warm, it doesn’t mean any germs you’re introducing to the food will be killed. Always use a different, clean utensil if you taste a dish while cooking, and never use your fingers to grab a sample.
For more information on food safety tips visit http://www.nsf.org/consumer-resources/health-and-safety-tips/food-safety-at-home-tips.