Myth: The Kitchen Is the Cleanest Room in the House

We like to think of kitchens as being clean, relatively germ-free places. But health experts have a different opinion.

"Salmonella, E. coli, listeria monocytogenes, campylobacteria," reeled off Dr. Philip Tierno, a microbiologist at New York University and author of "The Secret Life of Germs." Tierno said, "I think the kitchen can be the deadliest room in the house."

That's because it's the perfect environment for germs. For instance, grandma always said to let hot food cool down before popping it in the refrigerator. That's a myth, however.

"Bacteria grow from about 45 degrees to 140 degrees Farenheit. That means, the quicker you can cool down the foodstuff the better off you are," Tierno said.

Sharon Franke, food appliances director at Good Housekeeping, agrees. "What we would suggest is that you ladle it into smaller containers because it's going to cool down much more quickly in smaller containers than in this big container," she said.

What about the concept that you want the flavors to mix -- you want the food to just sit for a bit? "I think that's a myth. The flavors are going to meld even in the refrigerator, that's why leftovers taste so good sometimes," Franke said.

And another common kitchen myth: a sponge is the perfect way to keep your kitchen clean. False, said Franke. "It's very easy to take the bacteria that's in the sponge and recontaminate other areas of the kitchen," she said.

Tierno agreed. "A sponge or a dishrag, the equivalent of a sponge, is the dirtiest individual item in most homes," he said.

Tierno and Franke said a mild bleach solution -- one ounce per quart of water -- can decontaminate a dirty sponge or dishrag. "Then you really should let it stand for about 10 minutes to make sure that you really killed the bacteria," Franke said.

And Tierno recommends that you wash a sponge every time you handle food.

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