THE EXPERIMENTAL KITCHEN: How does bacteria spread in the kitchen?

The kitchen is, without a doubt, the most important and busiest room in a European home. As the kitchen is where food-borne diseases are most likely to originate, it is the primary site for the use of cleaning products, including antibacterial cleaners.
Because so many of our cleaning products are used in kitchens, and because our product developers need to have a scientific understanding of our consumers' habits and practices, P&G invested in an "experimental kitchen" at a research institute, Institut Pasteur, in Paris, France.
This kitchen was started up in 2000 and was used to conduct over 100 experiments before the programme was ended in the mid 2000s. The experimental kitchen was really a laboratory, where the conditions that reflect "typical" consumer habits are created, along with the ability to control a number of variables. These field studies allow the generation of scientific, reproducible data under realistic conditions.
  • Experiment objectives

    The main area of our investigation is the effect of various products and/or hygiene measures on the degree of cross-contamination between food, hands and kitchen surfaces. These kitchen experiments were usually conducted by volunteers - people who normally work in their own kitchens at home, and have received no special training prior to the experiments. This methodology is more realistic for examining how bacteria can spread. Several experiments were done at this facility. The example described here was around locating where bacterial hot spots are in the kitchen.
  • Experiment: Identifying the hot spots in your kitchen

    Identifying the hot spots in your kitchen
    Objective
    The objective of this experiment in the Experimental Kitchen was to identify the spread of bacteria in the kitchen so that we could locate the hot spots.

    What are hot spots?
    Hot spots are areas where a high level of microbial contamination is present. We refer to bacterial hot spots as surface areas, and contamination is expressed as a number (or range) of bacteria on a given surface area. Hot spots are a source of contamination for surrounding areas. Normal activities can easily result in spreading of the microbes from "hot spots" to other areas around the home. Hands and food are major vectors of the spread of microbial contamination in our homes.

    The experiment
    Pictured above are some of the hot spots revealed by the fluorescent bead study. The study shows that the cutting board and dish are fluorescent under ultraviolet light, indicating bacterial hot spots. Serratia marscesens and Escherichia coli (E. coli) are two bacteria that belong to the Enterobacteriaceae family.
    - Serratia is commonly found in soil and water as well as on plants and animals. Thanks to its red pigmentation it is frequently used in experiments to track microbial contamination.
    - E. coli is a member of the normal microflora of the mammalian intestine and as such it is widespread in the environment, especially around animals and people.

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