• School Science Class Year 5

    Making School Science Exciting – and encouraging good hygiene practices!

    Dr Lisa Ackerley, The Hygiene Doctor

    I was asked to run a science class at a local school for 40 Year 5 children (aged 9-10). Using an ultra-violet light torch and glow-in-the-dark powder, we carried out 3 experiments to bring microbiology to life and show how invisible organisms can spread. Some of the children had seen me doing something very similar on GMTV in the summer.

    Bacteria are Invisible, but they are Everywhere

    First I explained that you can’t see bacteria and viruses with the naked eye, and that whilst most micro-organisms are harmless, some can cause illness, and these are called pathogens. Our experiments were to demonstrate how bacteria and viruses could spread. Because the powder is invisible in bright light, it is very useful to show how invisible micro-organisms can transfer from hand to hand or surface to surface around the home.

    Hand to Hand Transfer of BacteriaUV light reveals dirty hands

    Group one was asked to form a line and the first girl shook my hand, then turned round and shook the hand of the girl behind and so on to the end. Then we dimmed the lights and using the torch we could see the spread of the powder from one girl to the next. This demonstrated how germs could spread via hands. The powder was still visible on the 7th hand! Obviously the importance of hand-washing was becoming evident….

    Uv torch reveals dirty clothTea Towels – How they can Transfer Bacteria

    Group 2 used a tea towel to wipe dry some wet drinking beakers. What they didn’t know is that I had put some of the powder on the tea towel! When we shone the torch on the cups, the powder could be seen on the inside of the cups. This showed how important it is to wash the tea towel regularly so that you are not putting bacteria onto your clean crockery and cutlery when drying up.

    Cleaning – can make things Dirtier!

    Group 3 were asked to go and “clean” some surfaces in the classroom with a cloth – and guess what? There was some glow in the dark powder on the cloth too. So when we shone the torch on the surfaces, we saw how the powder had transferred to surfaces. This demonstrated how dangerous a dirty cloth could be. I told them about all the dirty cloths we found in the UK survey, many of them with E.coli on.

    Toilet HygieneGreen is clean swabs show up dirty surfaces

    Group 4 used the “green is clean” swab to see if there were any dirty areas in the toilets and classroom – but well done school cleaners – all was sparkling!!

    Hand Washing

    Finally, as the powder was now on nearly everyone’s hands, I played a little trick, and asked everyone to go and wash their hands. Then I used the torch to see who had done it properly – oh dear! We then had a discussion on how to make sure that the backs of hands are washed, between the fingers and nails. The time it takes to sing “happy birthday to you” all the way through twice is how long you should take. So I guess it will be quite noisy at the sinks now – sorry teachers!!

    We then gave out homework sheets and one task was to invent a bug, draw a picture of it and give it a name.

    Teachers: For a session plan and UV powder and a torch contact us: info@thehygienedoctor.co.uk

     UV Germ kit


  • Kitchen Cloths – Don’t Muddle them Up!

    Dr Lisa Ackerley says make sure you’re not making your home dirtier when cleaning up!

    Make sure your kitchen cloth is not used for the floor

    Recently my PA told me about how she got into a bit of a strop with her boyfriend when she caught him using the dishcloth on the floor. As she rightly pointed out, as she had just walked in with her outdoor shoes on, effectively if he had used the same cloth for cleaning the dishes, it was like having the bottom of her trainers being rubbed all over the teaspoons, and of course, we all know that trainers could have been walked though anything!

    How dirty is your cloth?

    In our home hygiene studies we have found that the cloth is often the dirtiest item in the home. We have found billions of bacteria on cloths, including those which could cause illness, and those that indicate faecal contamination. Faecal contamination means that either bacteria have been picked up directly from faeces (poo) or from raw meat or vegetables that have been in contact with faeces. Either way, it’s not good. In effect, using a contaminated cloth could mean that instead of cleaning you are effectively “dirtying.” What a waste of time, and what a potential danger to your family!

    Top Tips for Cloths

    • Make sure that you always use separate cloths for high risk cleaning areas such as the floor, or the toilet – use different types and colours so it is obvious
    • For floor spillages, use paper towels or wipes that you throw away
    • If you have been preparing raw meat or poultry, treat the area as very dirty, and use anti-bacterial sprays and paper towels or anti-bacterial wipes
    • Wash cloths on a hot wash – over 60°C, preferably on a boil wash to get them free of dangerous bacteria

    It might seem like an extra chore, but it could make all the difference to your family’s health.

    Doctoid Fact from Dr Lisa Ackerley, the Hygiene Doctor - 40% of food poisoning is caused in the home

  • Is it Safe to Eat Pink Duck?

    The Hygiene Doctor discusses whether you should serve rare duck

    I’m often asked if it is safe to eat pink duck. The most important thing is actually whether the temperature has got high enough for potentially dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella or Campylobacter to be killed.

    Cooking whole poultry

    If cooking a whole chicken or duck, check the area between the thigh and the breast (the thickest part); the core temperature should be 75°C.

    Cooking duck breast

    Pink duck is safe if it is over 75 CIf checking a duck breast, put the probe in the centre of thickest part of the breast.

    The good news is that it is possible to cook duck to this safe core cooking temperature and yet still retain some pinkness to the flesh, as shown from the photograph of my dinner last night!

    Remember that food continues to cook after you have taken it out of the pan or oven, which is why chefs “rest” meat after cooking – so take it off the heat a little early, put in the thermometer and leave it – watch the temperature go up till it reaches 75°C. If it doesn’t get that high, then take out the probe, (disinfect it) and pop the duck back in the pan again for a few minutes. You can always cook it a bit more if you need to.

    If you want to never over or under cook food again, buy a thermometer like this from Hygiene Audit Systems for only £20 please contact us on 01727 866779 for more details or to pay by credit card.

    Remember: if using a probe thermometer to check that food has reached a core temperature of 75°C, it must be clean and disinfected before use.

    Top tips to clean the thermometer:

    • Use an antibacterial spray and some paper towels
    • Use antibacterial wipes
    • Put the probe tip into boiling water (if you are doing peas or potatoes, then that is just fine)!
  • Is a bit of dirt good for you?

    Fresh Produce - Wash raw foods before eating“A peck of dirt before you die” – I will give it a miss, thanks


    Dr Lisa Ackerley looks at the reasons why you should wash raw vegetables thoroughly.


    The Health Protection Agency revealed that unwashed leeks and potatoes may have been the cause of 250 scattered cases of E.coli O157 during 2010- 2011 which hospitalised 74 people and killed one already sick person.

    So how do you make sure you don’t fall ill from E. coli? Should you stop buying leeks and potatoes? Of course not! Just follow some simple rules:

    • Cooking kills E. coli, so all leeks and potatoes will be safe when cooked.
    • Use anti-bacterial products to remove dirt and kill E. coli on potentially contaminated surfaces such as chopping boards and sinks.
    • Make sure you wash your hands properly after handling raw vegetables – not a quick swill under the tap, but with soap, warm water and dry them properly afterwards preferably on a paper towel or hand towel – not a tea towel! This is a video from the Food Standards Agency on hand-washing which is for caterers, but there are some useful tips for the home.

    It raises the issue again of how to clean produce which is to be eaten raw – produce wash for domestic and commercial use is available from the Hygiene Audit Systems shop.

    So would I want to eat a peck of dirt? Not if it has E. coli on it – and how can you tell? It seems as though nearly every month another source of this potentially deadly organism is uncovered. So to keep things simple, assume that raw vegetables, meat and poultry may be contaminated, clean up carefully after preparation, and wash your hands!