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Hidden Kitchen Germs Threaten Families

International Study Shows Nearly 90 Percent of Sponges and Half of Sinks

Harbor High Levels of Illness-Causing Bacteria

PARSIPPANY, N.J., June 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Nearly half of all kitchen sinks harbor high levels of potentially dangerous bacteria, according to a new international study released today, sponsored by LYSOL(R) brand products.(1) In fact, investigators swabbing for bacteria in the United States and around the world found that 46 percent(2) of kitchen sinks - which families use for everything from bathing babies to washing pet food dishes - harbor unsatisfactory or heavily contaminated levels of bacteria, including E. coli, which can cause urinary tract infections, pneumonia and diarrhea.(3) Surprisingly, the kitchen sink hosts more germs than the bathroom sink, the refrigerator door handle or even the toys that our toddlers chew on.(4)

Americans' current kitchen cleaning habits don't help protect their families from illness-causing germs according to the new study from the Hygiene Council, a group of leading international infectious disease specialists. Despite 90 percent of U.S. respondents claiming to clean their kitchen surfaces two to three times per week, 25 percent of kitchen sinks analyzed failed the hygiene test for having unsatisfactory or heavily contaminated levels of bacteria that indicated the presence of feces or can cause skin infections.(5) Given the recent outbreak of Salmonella, linked to tomatoes in 17 states, Americans need to be particularly careful about how they clean and disinfect their sinks after washing off fruits and vegetables to avoid cross contamination of kitchen surfaces.

"This tells us that while most American families make a concerted effort to try and keep their homes clean and safe, they are not following basic hygiene habits to help protect themselves and their children," said John Oxford, chairman of the Hygiene Council and Professor of Virology at St. Bartholomew's & The Royal London Hospital, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry.

The Hygiene Council is comprised of leading infectious disease specialists from around the globe and is now in its third year working to dispel myths about germs and educate consumers about basic hygiene practices, such as proper hand washing, food handling and regular surface disinfection. For the 2008 Hygiene Council study, investigators examined more than 1,120 household surfaces in seven countries around the world (Germany, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States) to look for bacteria and learn more about families' hygiene habits.(6)

The study also found that kitchen cloths and sponges are germ hot spots in the kitchen -- nearly 90 percent of kitchen cloths and sponges(7) examined globally had unsatisfactory or worse levels of disease-causing bacteria.(8) The study showed the cloths and sponges we use to clean our kitchens actually harbored bacteria that can indicate the presence of feces, E. coli and Salmonella, which can easily spread and make families sick.(9) In fact, 80% of Salmonella cases alone are acquired at home through cross contamination, and not in a restaurant.(10)

Investigators found a shocking 75 percent of American kitchen cloths and sponges failed the hygiene test,(11) including 25 percent of those that appeared new or visibly clean.(12) Among Americans who reported changing their cloth or sponge once a week, 80 percent still had unsatisfactory or worse levels of bacteria on their cloth or sponge.(13) Despite the threat, only 25 percent of Americans queried in a companion survey expressed concern that they are most likely to come into contact with germs on their cloth or sponge in the kitchen.(14)

Even more startling, Americans' filthy cloths and sponges were shown to be the 'cleanest' in the world according to the Hygiene Council study -- cleaner than Germany, the U.K. and Saudi Arabia.(15) "Even the 'cleanest' kitchen cloth or sponge is a potential bacterial bomb because it can spread germs from surface to surface, cross contaminating everything it touches. People need to be educated about how to prevent this type of germ-spread in order to protect their families from illness," said Philip M. Tierno, Ph.D., U.S. representative to the Hygiene Council and director of Clinical Microbiology and Diagnostic Immunology at New York University Medical Center.(16) "As a council, we recommend that families follow simple hygiene routines. These include:"

-- Surface Disinfection -- Thirty percent (30 percent) of Americans surveyed said they most commonly clean their surfaces with a regular kitchen cleaner, water or plain dry cloth or sponge(17) -- none of which kill germs. Bacteria-laden surfaces such as the sink basin and commonly touched surfaces, such as the kitchen sink handle, should be regularly sprayed down with a disinfectant like LYSOL(R) Disinfectant Spray. To reduce the chances of cross contamination, skip the sponges and instead clean kitchen surfaces with a disinfectant product before preparing food and immediately after surfaces have been in contact with raw foods such as meat and poultry.(18)

-- Hand Washing -- Wash your hands frequently and regularly, especially after going to the bathroom, before and after preparing food, after changing a diaper, after touching animals and pets and if someone in your household is ill. It is important to use soap and water, scrub underneath your nails and the back of your hands and dry thoroughly with a paper towel.(19)

-- Proper Food Handling -- To avoid food-borne illness, cook and store food at the proper temperature. Separate raw meats from fresh produce and packaged goods in your grocery bag and refrigerator. Regularly disinfect surfaces to prevent cross contamination.(20)

The Hygiene Council recommendations are consistent and in support of recommendations made by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their Ounce of Prevention materials ( The Hygiene Council is funded by an educational grant from Reckitt Benckiser, makers of LYSOL(R) brand products.

About LYSOL(R)/Reckitt Benckiser, Inc.

Reckitt Benckiser is the world leader in household cleaning, (excluding laundry) and has a major presence in health and personal care. The Company is truly global, with over 60 operating companies and over 40 manufacturing facilities worldwide. With sales in 180 countries, the Company employs 22,000 people around the world. Among the Company's leading brands in household are Lysol, the world leader in disinfecting cleaning; Calgonit, Finish and Electrasol; the world leaders in automatic dishwashing; Woolite, world leader in fine fabrics; Vanish and Spray 'n Wash, world leaders in fabric treatment; Mucinex and Delsym, leaders in U.S. cold and cough; and Airwick and Mortein, both leading brands in air care and pest control, respectively. Reckitt Benckiser is headquartered in Slough just outside London and is listed on the London stock exchange. Its North American headquarters is in Parsippany, New Jersey, which is 30 miles West of New York City. With a market capitalization of $40 billion, Reckitt Benckiser ranks among the top 25 UK listed companies. Reckitt Benckiser has annual net revenues of $10 billion.

For further information please visit:

-- Lysol:

-- The Hygiene Council:

-- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Ounce of Prevention:

Note to editors, Hygiene Council members are:

-- Professor John Oxford, Professor of Virology at St. Bart's & The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, UK (chair)

-- Professor Philip M. Tierno, Director Clinical Microbiology and Immunology, Associate Professor, Departments of Microbiology and Pathology, New York University Medical Center, USA

-- Professor Barry D. Schoub, Executive Director, National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Johannesburg, South Africa

-- Dr. Sandip K. Ray, Secretary General, Indian Public Health Association, India

-- Dr. Christopher Lee, Consultant Physician Infectious Diseases, Kuala Lumpur General Hospital, Malaysia

-- Professor Martin Exner, Managing Director, Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, University of Bonn, Germany

-- Professor Carlo Signorelli, Professor of Hygiene, University of Parma, General Secretary of the Italian Society of Hygiene, Italy

-- Professor Tariq Ahmed Madani, Associate Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Faculty of Medicine, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Advisor to the Minister of Health, Ministry of Health, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

-- Dr. Donald E. Low, Microbiologist-in-Chief at Toronto Medical Laboratories/Mount Sinai Hospital, Canada

-- Dr. Kgosi Letlape, Chairman of the South African Medical Association (SAMA) and the immediate past President of the World Medical Association (WMA), South Africa

-- Dr. Rhonda Stuart, Infectious Disease Physician, Monash Medical Centre, Victoria, Australia

-- Joe Rubino, Director Shared Services, R&D Laboratories, Reckitt Benckiser

(1) Hygiene Council Global Hygiene Study Report 2008, page 48.

(2) Hygiene Council Global Hygiene Study Report 2008, page 48.

(3) Centers for Disease Control,

(4) Hygiene Council Global Hygiene Study Report 2008, page 48.

(5) Hygiene Council Global Hygiene Study Report 2008, Appendix Tables of Results. Page A12.

(6) Hygiene Council Global Hygiene Study Report 2008, page 6.

(7) Kitchen cloths and sponges were swabbed interchangeably based on country norms. Hygiene Council Global Hygiene Study Report 2008.

(8) Hygiene Council Global Hygiene Study Report 2008, page 48.

(9) Hygiene Council Global Hygiene Study Report 2008, page 45.

(10) MMWR Weekly, Preliminary FoodNet Data on the Incidence of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food -- 10 States, United States, 2005.

(11) Hygiene Council Global Hygiene Study Report 2008, page 35.

(12) Hygiene Council Global Hygiene Study Report 2008, Appendix Tables of Results, page A17.

(13) Hygiene Council Global Hygiene Study Report 2008 - Questionnaire of home study participants.
(14) 2008 International Home Hygiene Survey, Conducted March - May 2008.

(15) Hygiene Council Global Hygiene Study Report 2008, page 35.


(17) 2008 International Home Hygiene Survey, Conducted March - May 2008. (18) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Ounce of Prevention Initiative,

(19) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Ounce of Prevention Initiative,

(20) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Ounce of Prevention Initiative,

Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

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