ABC News' Elisabeth Leamy reports:
When it comes to bad boys of bacteria, we know the usual suspects. But this week " Good Morning America" teamed up with Consumer Reports to show you the surprising offenders still lurking in your kitchen.
Here are the biggest offenders:
Sticky Fingers OFFENSE: Your own fingers can spread more germs than any other tool in your kitchen. Salmonella from raw meat, dirt from unwashed vegetables and outside material on your hands can all contaminate your kitchen.
SENTENCE: Your hands should always get a good scrub down with hot, soapy water before and after preparing food. It is important to wash your hands after each encounter with garbage, raw meat and other possible contaminants.
Partners in Crime: Your stuff and your counter tops OFFENSE: Your keys, your purse, and even the mail can transport bacteria into your home from the outside. Your purse has been on store counter tops and the mail has been in many hands before reaching the kitchen-these items should never be deposited near your family's food.
SENTENCE: No visitation rights! Your outside belongings should be kept away from your counter tops. In addition, your kitchen surfaces should be wiped down regularly with hot, soapy water or disinfectant spray.
Reusable Grocery Bags OFFENSE: These offenders are accused of smuggling germs to and from the grocery store. Doing your part to save the planet may contaminate the environment in your kitchen. Reusing the same bags overtime to transport raw meats and vegetables can cause bacteria to grow on the surfaces of the tote.
SENTENCE: Consumer Reports suggests washing your reusable bags frequently, either by hand or in the gentle cycle of your washing machine. In addition, it is best to unload raw meat and other perishable items into your refrigerator as soon as you arrive home from the market.
Temperature Twins: Fridge and Freezer OFFENSE: These are cold cases-the problem is, they may not be cold enough. To keep food fresh and bacteria free-your refrigerator should be kept between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The freezer should be kept at zero degrees.
SENTENCE: These two offenders should be fitted with an appliance monitor to keep tabs on their temperatures at all times. If the temperature is above normal, use your appliances thermostat to achieve the proper climate control.
Dishcloths OFFENSE: Cover-up operation. Dishcloths are often crawling with bacteria…though posing as a cleaning tool. When you wipe your hands after handling raw food and then use the cloth to wipe down other surfaces, the bacteria is transferred. Very deceiving!
SENTENCE: These offenders should be put in the washing machine after each use. Keep a pile of fresh towels handy to use in the kitchen between washes.
Kitchen Sink OFFENSE: The kitchen sink harbors dirty dishes, a breeding ground for bacteria. The sink's handles are usually the first stop after handling raw food-thus, a magnet for salmonella and other dangerous bacteria.
SENTENCE: The kitchen sink should get regular cleanings with very hot water and soap-be certain to focus cleaning on the handles especially.
Mysterious Characters OFFENSE : Raw meat or dairy products that you suspect may have gone bad should never be second guessed. The bacteria lurking here is different than the obvious mold or sour smell…and is often undetectable to our senses.
SENTENCE: when in doubt, throw it out. Any meat, seafood, or poultry that you suspect may have been left out too long should be tossed!
Microwave OFFENSE: The microwave is a real hotbed of germ activity! Harmful bacteria can certainly collect on the visible spills left behind on the inside of the microwave. However, germs can also accumulate on the exterior buttons! Sticky fingers often use the microwave buttons dozens of times between washes.
SENTENCE: A good clean scrub of the inside and outside surfaces of the microwave after every use. Antibacterial wipes, spray or hot, soapy water will help prevent germs.
For more information on how to reduce bacteria and germs in your home, visit the Consumer Reports homepage.