One third of home cooks do not wash hands before touching smart devices after handling raw meat

Safefood highlights dangers of using smart devices while cooking following new research

Up to one third of Irish home cooks do not wash their hands after handling raw chicken before touching their mobile phones or tablets, according to research from a food safety watchdog.

The absence of proper hand hygiene was revealed despite the fact food poisoning bacteria, such as Salmonella and E.coli., can survive on the screen of a smart device for more than 24 hours.

The research from Safeood looked at hygiene habits when using a smartphone or tablet in the kitchen at home and found participants touched their phones or tablets six times on average when cooking.

Those who took part were observed using a smartphone or tablet when cooking a meal which involved raw poultry and raw eggs and it emerged that, having touched raw chicken, one in three did not wash their hands before picking up their smart device. This increased to 74 per cent among those who handled eggs and then picked up their phone or tablet.

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Participants had their hands and personal devices swabbed to analyse for food poisoning bacteria and after cooking, with around 6 per cent of pre-cleaned smart devices found to be contaminated with bacteria that could potentially cause food poisoning.

“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, said Safefood’s director of food safety Trish Twohig. “Given the widespread use of these devices in the kitchen, people should be aware of the possible food safety risks.”

Dr Mairead McCann, technical executive at Safefood, said the research should serve as 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”.

She said 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 said people should always wash their hands before and after cooking and before and between handling ingredients and a smart device.

It also said people using a smart device while cooking should ensure the surfaces are properly cleaned as placing a device on an unclean kitchen worktop could spread harmful bacteria.

It encouraged home cooks to disinfect their smart devices before and after cooking. Using antibacterial wipes containing at least 70 per cent alcohol can significantly reduce the contamination on smart device surfaces and when disinfecting, people should pay close attention to the screen, buttons, and edges, it said.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor