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Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 17:44 GMT
Washing up bowls 'a health hazard'
Washing up
Washing up is not necessarily hygienic
Many commonly used kitchen implements are a threat to health and should be thrown away, scientists have warned.

Washing up bowls and re-usable dish clothes are thought to be a particularly good breeding ground for bugs.

Anti-bacterial washing up liquids and impregnated chopping boards were also given a thumbs down.

Scientists say they do little to combat the problem of kitchen germs - in fact they may do more harm than good.


Washing-up bowls are an absolute menace

Professor Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen University

Food hygiene experts from around the world will gather at the Home Hygiene conference taking place in London this week to discuss latest developments.

Professor Hugh Pennington, from the University of Aberdeen, one of Britain's leading infection experts, said: "I would like to get rid of washing-up bowls altogether. They are an absolute menace."

Professor Pennington said that placing chopping boards and knives teeming with germs together with plates and glasses in a plastic bowl created an ideal environment for the spread of bugs.

Colleague Professor Sally Bloomfield, from King's College, London, said there was a high risk of salmonella being transmitted from chopping boards to plates in the washing-up bowl.

The experts said disposable paper cloths should be used instead of tea-towels that could easily spread infection.

They also recommended using "good old fashioned bleach" in the kitchen rather than newer anti-bacterial products that were only vaguely effective.

Thousands of cases

Last year there were more than 17,000 reported cases of salmonella poisoning in England and Wales and 55,000 cases of infection by campylobacter, a common bug that causes stomach upsets.

Estimates for unreported cases pushed the number of salmonella infections up to more than 50,000 and campylobacter to more than 400,000.

Viruses were responsible for a vast number of infections, possibly amounting to more than three million cases.

Professor Pennington said: "One in five of us each year will get diarrhoea.

"To me, that's a public health scandal, because it's preventable."

He said it was best to get rid of the washing-bowl and instead use the whole sink.

He said: "It's basically common sense. Stuff goes into the bowl and the water gets murkier and murkier.

"If you're washing up knives that have been used to cut up raw chicken, or a chopping board, and using the same water that you use to wash plates, you run a very high risk of transferring bugs to those plates."

Tea-towels might look clean but could really be teeming with germs, he said.

Professor Pennington's washing up advice was to first run the items under the tap "to get rid of the basic grot".

Then they should be washed in a large volume of water containing an effective detergent such as bleach.

This should be followed by a final rinse with running hot water.

The aim was to mimic what happened in a washing-up machine.

Plates should be stacked up and allowed to dry naturally rather than mopped with a cloth which might be contaminated.

Work surfaces should be rinsed, given a good scrub with detergent, and rinsed again.

Professor Pennington added that he would like to see kitchens fitted with sensor-operated taps that turned on automatically when approached, so they were not touched by bug-ridden fingers.

The Home Hygiene conference is being hosted by the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene (IFH) and the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) in conjunction with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

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See also:

29 Nov 00 | Health
Food hygiene clampdown call
29 Jul 98 | Food Safety
Drive to cut poison cases
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