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Home kitchens may not be as clean as people think

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Bacteria is tested in Upstate home's kitchens. (File/FOX Carolina) Bacteria is tested in Upstate home's kitchens. (File/FOX Carolina)
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GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Would you go to a restaurant if it had below a B, or even A grade sanitary rating?

Some people may not, but they also may not know how their own kitchens compare.

Microbiologist Dr. Jack Turner runs the Watershed Ecology Center at University of South Carolina Upstate. He took samples of trouble spots in two Upstate kitchens to find what everyone should be look out for.

Fridge shelves, dishwashers with low heat, the sink and even fruit on the counter served as homes for loads of bacteria.

When the Department of Health and Environmental Control tests commercial kitchens, their top priorities include making sure foods are cooked properly, held at the right temperature and cooled or re-heated correctly and that food is from an approved source.

They want to know that working employees aren't sick and passing on their germs, and that staff washes hands thoroughly and keeps sinks and work stations sanitized. Raw foods and cooked foods aren't supposed to cross paths, either.

One of the worst places germs hide, Turner said, is a cutting board.

"You can see all of those, all of the cut marks. The organisms, the bacteria, get down inside of those cut marks and they can live down in there," said Turner.

Turner explained that after a wipe down, natural chemicals in unfinished wooden cutting boards may kill the bacteria. Plastic ones, though, should be washed by a hot dishwasher or scrubbed vigorously with a clean brush.

But even dishwashers can carry germs, especially if they're not running at a high enough heat.

"What'll happen if it's not hot enough in there," Turner said, "those organisms are growing, they are coated all over everything."

And food left out, like fruits and veggies, should be peeled or scrubbed.

Turner said, though, the bacteria eaten off of those foods likely won't have much of an effect on people, since stomach acid typically kills them as they're digested.

Just because there's always bacteria growing on things doesn't mean that it's always bad. Turner said everyone has bacteria all over and in their bodies.

The problem, he said, comes when people are exposed to ones that their bodies aren't used to, which is why bacteria in individual home kitchens, where people eat every day, may not affect them.

A different germ found at a restaurant can make people sick.

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