- NEW YORK (Reuters Health)
- With Americans eating out more, researchers are cautioning that the
on which commercial meals are served may become contaminated with bacteria
if they are not allowed to dry properly before being piled up after
- "Cleaning and stacking and holding dishes in a
operation or church kitchen may become an issue if dishes are stacked wet
and then held for a long period,'' said study author Dr. Dorothy W.
- Hagan, professor of medicine at Oregon Health Sciences
University in Portland, and her colleagues assessed whether stacking wet
dishes in commercial establishments may contribute to the growth of harmful
bacteria on plate surfaces. According to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, there are an estimated 75 million cases of foodborne
reported each year in the US.
- The researchers first identified bacteria on 100 dishes
(prior to washing) that had been used to serve meals to patients at a
center. They then put half the plates through a full cycle of a dishwasher,
stacking the plates after placing small amounts of water on each dish
The other 50 plates were machine-washed and then allowed to air dry for
- Hagan and colleagues then analyzed all the plates for
the presence of bacteria. Their findings are published in the August issue
of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
- Twenty-four hours after washing, the investigators found
no apparent difference in bacterial growth between those stacked wet and
those fully air-dried. However, after 48 hours a significantly higher
of various bacteria were evident on the wet-stacked dishes.
- Although the researchers did not determine exactly what
types of bacteria had grown on the plates, they conclude that there is
a risk of bacterial growth and food contamination if dishes are stacked
wet after being run through an improperly working dishwasher or
dried after being hand washed.
- "Food safety and sanitation are of interest to
today because of mad cow disease, contaminated water supplies, overuse
of antibiotics, the public eating outside the home more (often),'' Hagan
told Reuters Health. "And this time-temperature-moisture problem sets
up an ideal environment for microbial growth.''
- Hagan pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration
code specifically recommends air drying of all commercial dishware in order
to prevent such food contamination problems. And she stressed that
and food-preparers should pay attention not just to what they eat but to
whether or not what they eat is safely prepared.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2001;101:933-934.
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