‘Tis the season for family, friends, and … food poisoning?!? 

As we head into the holiday cooking and baking season, a new survey1 reveals that more than 1 in 3 moms (38%) is concerned about getting food poisoning due to someone else’s poor kitchen hygiene. While moms have been known to “over-worry” about a lot of things, in this case our concerns may be perfectly warranted (aka many home cooks are just plain gross).

In fact … according to the survey conducted by the Water Quality & Health Council:

  • Most Americans (62%) rinse raw turkey in the kitchen sink, a practice experts say could splatter germs up to three feet, contaminating nearby kitchen surfaces.
  • 26% admit to not washing their hands during food preparation (only before or after). Experts say this nasty practice could cause cross-contamination and introduce dangerous foodborne pathogens, like E. coli and Salmonella, to holiday meals.
  • 38% use nothing more than soap and water to sanitize kitchen surfaces between steps as they cook their holiday dinner. According to public health experts, that’s a big problem that could lead to cross-contamination and make dinner guests susceptible to foodborne illness. In fact, the kitchen sponge has been shown to be the “germiest” item in many homes.
  • 55% don’t know that the refrigerator’s bottom shelf is the safest place to store a raw turkey. When an uncooked bird is placed on a higher shelf, bacteria-laden juices can drip onto food stored lower down.

These unsanitary practices may help explain why 1 in 4 moms reports having previously gotten food poisoning from a holiday meal. Yuck!

Who Left the Turkey Out …

Another significant health risk comes after the holiday feast is over. Among those Americans who had turkey last Thanksgiving, more than 1 in 4 (26%) left the bird out for three or more hours before they put away the leftovers … which could be bad news for your belly when you go back for leftovers. Experts say unsafe bacteria starts to grow on cooked poultry two hours after it’s finished cooking.

Vegetarians and Vegans Aren’t in the Clear, Either

So then vegetarians and vegans don’t have to worry about cross-contamination, right? Wrong. The survey revealed that 21% of Americans rarely or never sanitize worktops and cutting boards after handling raw fruits or vegetables. That’s especially concerning since fruits and vegetables are the most-recalled food products – a fact that most people who responded to the survey (71%) didn’t know.

How Can Moms Plate It Safe This Holiday Season?

In response to these unsettling findings, the Water Quality & Health Council has launched the Plate It Safe campaign to educate home cooks and bakers on how to safely prepare recipes.

“Recipes found on our favorite sites, magazines, and social media rarely include basic food preparation tips, like when to wash your hands, how to properly clean fruits and vegetables, or how to safely store or wash raw food,” said Edgar Chambers IV, Ph.D., a consumer behavior expert at Kansas State University. “Research has shown that simple modifications to recipes, such as including the Safe Recipe Style Guide icons, greatly improves food safety practices.”

Through the Plate It Safe campaign, Moms Against Cooties is excited to join with food influencers, home cooks, and bakers to spread this important message about food safety, especially with the holiday cooking season upon us. Each food publisher has been provided a toolkit that includes expert safety tips based on the Safe Recipe Style Guide standards produced by the Partnership for Food Safety Education, along with icons for each food safety step to include in their recipes.

The Water Quality & Health Council also compiled a list of holiday recipes that include food safety tips from popular food influencers and publishers who have joined the Plate It Safe campaign, along with food safety resources home cooks can refer to while preparing holiday dishes. 

Now let’s get cooking!

1The 2019 Plate It Safe survey was conducted by the Water Quality & Health Council, an independent, multidisciplinary group of scientific experts, health professionals, and consumer advocates that is sponsored by the American Chemistry Council’s Chlorine Chemistry Division. The survey interviewed 3,038 American adults online October 4-6, 2019, with the intent to measure perceptions and behaviors related to food safety and cooking/baking activities during the holiday season. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 2.7% at the 95% confidence level and is nationally representative of American adults in terms of age, gender, region, parental status, and income.