Using smart phones and tablet devices when cooking harbours hidden risks of Salmonella and E. coli

New safefood research has revealed the hidden food safety risks of using smartphones or tablet devices while cooking with these smart gadgets capable of hosting food poisoning bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli for more than 24 hours.

The study of over 500 participants highlighted the pressing need for improved food hygiene practices when handling smart devices in kitchens across in Northern Ireland.

Salmonella and E. coli are two common types of food poisoning bugs in Northern Ireland and symptoms of food poisoning can include stomach cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting. Some people, especially young children, pregnant women, those with a weakened immune system and older people can get very ill and may need hospital treatment.

The research found that one in three of participants neglected to wash their hands after handling raw poultry and before touching a smart device, while the majority (74%) didn’t wash their hands after handling raw eggs, prior to using their smart devices.

During a 30-minute practical cooking assessment, the study observed that participants frequently used their smart devices as they cooked, touching them nearly six times on average. After cooking, around 6% of pre-cleaned smart devices were found to be contaminated with potentially food poisoning bacteria.

Introducing the research, Trish Twohig, Director of Food Safety with safefood said “From searching for recipes to watching cooking tutorials or capturing moments for social media, smart devices like smartphones or tablets have become indispensable tools for many during meal preparation. Given the widespread use of these devices in the kitchen, people should be aware of the possible food safety risks. Our research found that food poisoning bacteria, like Salmonella and E.coli., can survive on the screen of a smart device for more than 24 hours”

Dr Mairead McCann, Technical Executive at safefood continued “Nobody wants to spread potential food-poisoning bugs around kitchen surfaces or on to already-cooked foods. This new research is a helpful reminder to home cooks of the potential risks associated with smart devices in the kitchen and the importance of good food safety in the home. Following good habits like regular and proper hand washing and cleaning and disinfection of smart devices can help with reducing cross-contamination when you are cooking and using them,

safefood’s top tips for good food safety habits while using a smart device in the kitchen.

Wash hands before and after cooking.

Clean hands are important to help stop cross-contamination between your smart device and ingredients when cooking. Before and between handling ingredients and your smart device, wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, drying with a clean hand towel.

Clean worktop before and after cooking with a smart device

When using a smart device while cooking, placing your device on an unclean kitchen worktop could spread harmful bacteria. Always wash kitchen worktops with hot soapy water before and after preparing food. Cleaning as you go will help reduce cross-contamination and keep your workspace clear.

Disinfect your smart device before and after cooking.

Before you start cooking, disinfect your smart device to help reduce potential cross-contamination. It’s important to also disinfect your smart device after cooking if you have handled raw ingredients such as meat, poultry, or eggs. Always follow your manufacturers’ instructions before doing so. Using antibacterial wipes (containing at least 70% alcohol) can significantly reduce the contamination on smart device surfaces. When disinfecting, pay close attention to the screen, buttons, and edges.

For more information on good food safety habits while cooking, please visit www.safefood.net/news or follow safefood on Facebook, X, & Instagram.

 

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