• Thinking about dangerous bacteria living happily and reproducing in your home and in your food is unpleasant, but the fact is that bacteria are everywhere, from your bathroom sink to your sushi. Some bacteria are good and help to promote a healthy digestive system, but many strains of bacteria cause serious illnesses such as Salmonella and Campylobacteriosis. For your own health and that of your family, it is important to know how to kill these harmful organisms before they end up in someone's digestive tract.

    Disrupting pH Balance

    Keep your kitchen and bathroom clean. For bacteria to grow and multiply, an environment must be warm and moist. Certainly you can think of a lot of spots in your kitchen and bathroom that would be meet these two qualifications, making them inviting places for harmful bacteria. Perhaps the most obvious spot is the sink. Aside from being warm and moist, sinks also have a neutral pH level, which is a necessity for bacterial growth according a service bulletin published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. By disrupting the pH level in your sink or other warm, moist area, you can kill the bacteria. Vinegar is extremely acidic and alters the pH level in the sink. Simply fill a clean spray bottle with one part white distilled vinegar and two parts water. Spray liberally and wait about five minutes. Then wipe the area with a sponge that has also been sprayed liberally with white vinegar. Now those harmful bacteria have nowhere to hide. Vinegar works especially well on porcelain, fixtures, and buttons on stoves and microwaves; however, never use vinegar on natural stone countertops such as granite or marble because the acid causes permanent damage.

    Destroying Cell Walls

    Use chlorine to disinfect. In May of 1998, the Water Research Program Manager at the United States Air Force Research Laboratory and the Director of Disinfection and Government Relations at the Chlorine Chemistry Council joined forces to answer the question of how chlorine kills bacteria. In short, their response was that chlorine can break down the cell walls of certain types of bacteria and ultimately kill them. The much longer answer is that researchers do not know for certain why chlorine kills all types of bacteria rather than just those few with the compromised cell walls. But the fact that chlorine is a highly effective bactericide. In fact, many hikers and backpackers carry dry chlorine tablets to disinfect water from streams or lakes to make it drinkable. Go to a store that specializes in outdoor supplies and purchase a packet of chlorine tablets. Bring them with you on your next outdoor adventure and fill up a one liter bottle with untreated water. Drop in one chlorine tablet and then you have bacteria-free water that is safe to drink. However, the chlorine tablet does leave a strong chemical taste in the water that many outdoor lovers choose to filter out using a compact filtration system. As a side note, chlorine-based bleach is a powerful cleaning product for your home. Use the same method of putting chlorine-based bleach in a spray bottle and apply liberally to both surfaces and sponges.

    Inhospitable Temperatures

    Store food properly. Anyone who has worked in a restaurant can tell you that raw meat and fish must be kept at a certain temperature to inhibit the growth of bacteria. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, refrigerators must be kept at a constant temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. This also applies to sushi, which should never be sitting out at room temperature for any extended period of time. If you are concerned that meat or fish is not being stored properly, ask the staff. If they confirm your suspicion that the meat is not being refrigerated at the correct temperature, call the local health department. Improper storage puts the health of every diner at risk and should be addressed by department officials immediately. Of course, proper refrigeration is only half the battle. Meats also have to be cooked at the right temperatures to inhibit bacterial growth. Depending on the type of meat, the internal temperature of the food should be between 140 degrees and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Always send meat back if it looks too pink or seems to be cooked unevenly.



    Scientific American: How does chlorine added to drinking water kill bacteria and other harmful organisms?

    National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Bacteria and Foodborne Illness


    Centre national de la recherche scientifique: Antibacterial action of vinegar against food-borne pathogenic bacteria

    Chlorine Online Information Resource: Chlorine - a vital water disinfectant

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