See kitchen hygiene errors that put Brazilians’ health at risk


Researchers from the Food Research Center (FoRC) investigated hygiene habits and practices related to food hygiene, handling and storage in Brazilian homes. The results show that a significant portion of the population adopts inadequate measures, being, therefore, more exposed to food-borne diseases (DTAs).

The survey was carried out with 5,000 people from all Brazilian states (mostly women between 25 and 35 years old and with income between four and ten minimum wages). Among the participants, 46.3% said they used to wash meat in the kitchen sink, 24.1% usually consume undercooked meat and 17.4% consume raw or undercooked eggs in homemade mayonnaise and other dishes.

“Washing meat, especially chicken, in the kitchen sink can spread potential pathogens into the environment, representing a risky practice”, explains the research coordinator, Uelinton Manoel Pinto, professor at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at USP and a member of the FoRC, a Research, Innovation and Diffusion Center (CEPID) of FAPESP.

The consumption of undercooked or raw animal foods also poses a microbiological risk, as it is recommended to cook the food at a minimum temperature of 74 °C to ensure the inactivation of pathogens that may be present in the raw product.

“Not every raw animal product contains pathogenic microorganisms, but there is this risk and proper cooking ensures that they are eliminated or reduced to safe levels,” he stresses.

With respect to cleaning practices for vegetables, 31.3% usually do the cleaning with just running water and 18.8% with running water and vinegar. For fruit cleaning, 35.7% use only running water and 22.7% also use detergent.

“For the safe cleaning of vegetables, legumes and fruits that will be eaten raw, the recommendation is to wash them with running water and use a chlorinated solution with a minimum contact time of 10 minutes, followed by rinsing again in running water”, he adds.

The percentage of people who use chlorinated water in the study was 37.7% (for vegetables) and 28.5% (for fruits). It is noteworthy that vegetables that will be cooked or fruits that will be consumed without the skin do not need to undergo disinfection in a chlorinated solution.

When shopping in supermarkets, most respondents (81%) do not use thermal bags to transport refrigerated or frozen food to their homes.

“In a country like Brazil, where temperatures easily reach 30 °C in several cities throughout the year, it is essential that perishable products are transported in suitable conditions, inside a thermal bag”, highlights researcher Jessica Finger. The study also involved a scientific initiation student, Guilherme Silva, who is studying nutrition at USP.

With respect to food leftovers, 11.2% of the participants reported storing them in the refrigerator more than two hours after preparation, which represents a risk to food safety. “It is not recommended to leave food ready for more than two hours without refrigeration, as room temperature favors microbial growth in these foods. This is one of the main practices responsible for outbreaks of food-borne illnesses”, the researchers add.

It was also evident that it was common among the participants to thaw food at room temperature (39.5%) or inside a container with water (16.9%), which is also not suitable, since the food must be kept at a safe temperature during defrosting, which can be done in the refrigerator or in the microwave.

Most participants (57.2%) reported storing meat in the refrigerator using the packaging that contains the product. According to the researchers, this practice is questionable, since it is necessary to use a suitable container to avoid dripping of meat juice and contamination of other foods stored in the refrigerator.

The good news is that, in relation to the temperature of the refrigerators, of the 1,944 records collected, 91% fell within the recommended temperature range of 0 to 10 °C. This data is important, as it can be used in modeling studies to predict the multiplication of microorganisms in refrigerated foods.

The research was the basis for the development of educational material with the aim of guiding the population on the correct way to store food in the refrigerator.

With information from the FoRC Communication Department


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