You might be surprised by what's lurking in your kitchen

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - How clean is your kitchen?

We're not talking about the dust around the baseboards, or what might be lurking under the fridge. We're talking about the stuff you can't see.

Get a look at a typical day inside Crystal Britt's kitchen.

On this day she was breading some chicken breast, but this time had a health inspector looking over her shoulder.

Amy Morris from the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center was along for the ride.

Here's what we wanted to find out, what kind of bacteria might be lurking before, during and after meal prep?

Before we started cooking, Amy helped Crystal with some samples that we will take to the lab later.

First, they swabbed the kitchen counter before meal prep. Then, they started preparing the meal. It's a messy process, as they flattened the chicken in a zip-tight bag, then dredged it in flour, egg and bread crumbs.

As an environmental health specialist, Amy Morris educates the public about hand washing and cleaning up after cooking.

She works with restaurants as well.

"We have over 460 restaurants that we inspect and part of that includes what we're talking about today," said Morris.

So the pressure is on with a professional health inspector standing by.

"One mistake can make a lot of people sick," said Morris.

The kitchen is now a mess, like a normal meal prep.

Before they clean it all up, they conducted a little test.

Amy brought with her a product that simulates germs.

"This will make us see what we normally wouldn't be able to see," said Morris.

They slathered it on another chicken breast, and ran it through the prep process again.

They took a look under a black light to see what potential germs the chicken would leave behind. The product was on pretty much everything.

They then tried the hand washing test. They used something called Glo Germ, a liquid they put on Crystal's hands.

Crystal washed, but the first time around didn't use soap.

Under the black light, you could see her hands were nowhere near clean. In addition to the breaded chicken, they had also diced some chicken.

In that simulation, you could see what didn't get clean, her nails and cuticles.

Another handwash with soap, and the scan under the black light is clear.

Back to the counter, They took a swab sample before they cleaned up. They swabbed again after using just soap. Then they used a disinfectant.

From the kitchen, they headed to the microbiology lab at Southeast Missouri State University. They're testing for bacteria, including salmonella.

A few days later, they got the results.

The good news first, the countertops looked pretty good. Bacteria only showed up in the sample they submitted, which was taken before they cleaned up.

Hands were good too, except for after handling the chicken. The nastiest place though was the cutting board.

"That's the one that gave the most growth, the most colonies...the most bacteria," said Dr. James Champine.

The test indicated the board, pre-washed after cutting up chicken, was covered in bacteria.

They would never do this in real life, but they were just curious, so they only rinsed the board with water.

The bacteria, as you'd expect, was still there.

"However, the cutting board after a full wash with soap and water was free of bacteria," said Dr. Champine.

Champine tested for organisms like salmonella, shigella and E.coli.

Sometimes you just can't avoid those.

"You're always going to get some of that intestinal bacteria spread around, which is why it's important to cook your food thoroughly and clean up well afterward," said Dr. Champine.

Amy Morris from the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center doesn't recommend you use products like Clorox wipes, or other disinfectant wipes or sprays on your kitchen counters.

She said the health department doesn't allow the restaurants they inspect to use those.

Instead, she suggests a bleach water mixture to wipe down your surface after meal prep.

If you do use the other products, just be sure to rinse the surface again with soap and water after use.

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