Learn how germs that can cause food poisoning spread around the kitchen and how you can help protect your family with simple cleaning and disinfection.

How to keep surfaces safe

"Bacteria can survive on surfaces in the home for long periods of time"

As well as frequent and thorough hand washing, an equally critical step you can take is to clean and disinfect hand and food contact areas in your home. The reason for this is that bacteria can survive on surfaces in the home for long periods of time. They can then be transferred to other surfaces (including the hands) in sufficient numbers to represent an infection risk5.

Why is surface cleaning so important?

  • Pathogenic micro-organisms entering the home can survive on surfaces for significant periods of time5
  • Micro-organisms from surfaces can then be transferred to hands
  • Germs from the hands can be transferred to other surfaces and other people leading to infection
  • Clean or disinfect surfaces to reduce the risk of cross contamination

When should surface cleaning be done?


  • When someone in the household is ill with vomiting
  • If a surface is contaminated by vomit, faeces, blood or any bodily fluid
  • Before and after preparing food
  • Whenever they are dirty


  • When someone in the household is ill with colds and sneezes
  • When a surface is frequently touched

And frequently...

  • If someone in the household is ill with diarrhoea

To help stop germs spreading, it is important to regularly clean the surfaces used for food preparation and those surfaces that you often touch with your hands, such as the fridge door handle, cupboard handles, taps, waste bins and door handles.

Clean and Disinfect Food Preparation Surfaces

You need to clean and disinfect food contact surfaces before putting any food on them and immediately after contact with any raw food (e.g. poultry, meat, fish and eggs). After touching raw food you should also clean and disinfect any surfaces that you may have contaminated with germs (e.g. fridge door handle and taps).

  • You can decontaminate small items such as crockery, cutlery and pans by washing them thoroughly in hot water and detergent, then rinsing them with clean running water.
  • Large or fixed items that you cannot rinse under a tap, such as work surfaces, taps and handles, need to be cleaned and then disinfected using a kitchen disinfecting product.

Clean and Disinfect Hand-Contact Surfaces

Surfaces in the kitchen such as fridge door handles, cupboard handles, taps, waste bins and door handles can easily become contaminated with germs, especially if hand hygiene is poor. You should clean and disinfect these hand-contact surfaces regularly to ensure they don’t become a hygiene hazard.

Safe food preparation

The vast majority of food-borne illnesses occur because food was not handled or cooked properly. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that 50 to 80% of food-borne illnesses happen in the home8. Foods are safely cooked when they are heated for long enough and at a high enough temperature to kill any harmful micro-organisms. If food isn’t cooked properly micro-organisms such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria may cause food poisoning. Coupled with this, foods stored incorrectly can also increase the risk of contamination and disease spread. Ideally, all food, particularly cooked food, should be stored in a refrigerator.

The best practice for food hygiene

  • Store and prepare raw meat, poultry, and seafood away from other foods
  • Store food in the fridge at 5°C, do not overfill and allow cold air to circulate
  • Where refrigeration is not possible use food preservatives such as salt or freshly prepare food each day
  • Prevent food juices from dripping onto other foods
  • Wash hands after each stage of food preparation and particularly after touching raw meat and poultry
  • Cut meat and vegetables with separate knives and cutting boards
  • Don’t forget to clean all contaminated items including utensils, cutting boards, and kitchen worktops after using
  • Soak, scrape, brush, scald, or wash all fruit, salad and vegetables
  • Always cook all meat products thoroughly at 70°C
  • Don’t leave cooked food sitting at room temperature for longer than two hours
  • Remember to reheat (at 70°C or above) and re-serve leftovers only once
  • Wash hands before and after eating

Meats that should never be eaten rare!

Poultry, pork, hamburgers, sausages, chicken nuggets, rolled joints, and kebabs - They may harbour bacteria throughout.

A home hygiene study by the Hygiene Council found that:

19% of kitchen surfaces were contaminated with E. coli. This contamination could have come from raw meat which highlights the importance of handling food carefully in the kitchen.

"In the case of poultry, make sure juices run clear during cooking"

Cross contamination

Cross-contamination happens when germs spread from one food to another, directly or via surfaces or hands.

Always separate raw and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, and storing.

  • In the refrigerator, keep washed salad items in the salad compartment, cooked and ready-to-eat food at the top, and raw meat covered at the bottom.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean, safe water before using them.
  • Never place cooked or ready-to-eat food on a plate or surface that previously held raw food (e.g. uncooked meat, poultry, fish and eggs).
  • Avoid contact between raw foods and ready-to-eat foods by using separate chopping boards and knives. Try designating one board for fresh fruit and vegetables, and one for raw meats, poultry, and seafood.
  • After use, clean and disinfect chopping boards.
  • Wash knives, dishes and utensils thoroughly with hot, soapy water after use, then rinse thoroughly in clean safe water.

Food poisoning

About Food-borne Illness

Food-borne illness or ‘food poisoning’ is caused by consuming germs in contaminated food or water. Germs that cause food poisoning can easily spread from foods, such as raw meat and poultry, to hands or kitchen work surfaces, and in turn can spread to other foods.

Depending on the type of germ involved, the symptoms may begin from one to 36 hours after eating contaminated food, and may range from a mild stomach upset, vomiting and diarrhoea to severe illness. For those with weak immune systems, illness can be more severe.

Common Food-borne Illnesses

  • Salmonella: Causes salmonellosis which results in watery diarrhoea and abdominal pain, and sometimes vomiting and a fever. Food derived from animals and poultry is the main source.
  • Campylobacter: Causes campylobacteriosis and is present in foods such as raw milk, raw or undercooked poultry, and drinking water. Acute health effects of campylobacteriosis include severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea and diarrhoea. In two to ten per cent of cases the infection may lead to chronic health problems, including reactive arthritis and neurological disorders.
  • Vibrio cholera: Causes cholera through contaminated water and food such as rice, vegetables, millet gruel and various types of seafood. Symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting and profuse watery diarrhoea, may lead to severe dehydration and possibly death, unless fluid and salt are replaced.
  • Shigella: Bacteria that cause diarrhoea and dysentery (diarrhoea with blood and mucus in the stools) and are transmitted by ingestion of contaminated food or water, or through person-to-person contact. Apart from diarrhoea, symptoms of Shigella infection include fever, abdominal cramps, and rectal pain. Most patients recover without complications within seven days. Shigellosis can be treated with antibiotics, although some strains have developed drug resistance.
  • Salmonella typhi: Causes typhoid fever and is transmitted through the ingestion of food or drink contaminated by the faeces or urine of infected people. Symptoms usually develop 1–3 weeks after exposure and may be mild or severe. They include high fever, malaise, headache, constipation or diarrhoea, rose-coloured spots on the chest, and enlarged spleen and liver.

Cleaning Tips

You can use antibacterial surface cleaning wipes, an antibacterial multi-purpose cleaner, or appropriate disinfectant to clean and disinfect kitchen surfaces.

It is advisable to clean your refrigerator regularly. Wipe up any spills promptly, then clean and disinfect any contaminated surfaces. Remember to use cleaners or disinfectants that do not leave an odour, and don’t forget to clean and disinfect the fridge handle and door seals regularly as well. Check the fridge manufacturer’s manual for advice on cleaning.

Sinks need cleaning regularly using products that can remove soap scum and scale. If the sink is contaminated (e.g. with germs from raw food) you need to clean and disinfect promptly. Since you cannot clean drains very easily, you may need to apply a suitable disinfectant regularly to reduce germs and odours.

Empty, clean and disinfect your kitchen bin regularly. Use a bin with a lid as keeping your rubbish covered will help limit the possibility of an insect or rodent infestation.

Remove food debris from tables and high chairs, and clean and disinfect them before meals.

If possible, replace kitchen carpets with hard surface flooring, such as tiles, linoleum, or laminate. These are more hygienic because they are easier to clean and do not collect debris in the same way that carpets can.

Always check product labels to make sure products are suitable for a surface before use.

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