• Bacteria can stick to food when it falls on the floor

    The 5 Second Rule – revisited?

    The 5 Second Rule: should you eat food if it drops on the floor?

    Recent research by has hit the press this week, reported as concluding that bacteria may not transfer quickly to some foods when dropped on the floor, and therefore the 5 second rule may apply. I carried out an experiment and put some special powder on the floor to simulate bacteria, and then dropped some bread on the floor and picked it up immediately. The bread looked fine in daylight (see the left of the image), but under the UV light showed up all the powder that had transferred (right of image) – showing what can be picked up if you drop food on the floor!

    Read more

  • Watch out for germs if you hot desk

    Should I eat at my Desk?

    I eat at my desk – we all do it don’t we?

    I know I shouldn’t eat at my desk, what with Psychologists, Nutritionists and other health professionals telling us it’s bad. We should get out and have a walk, clear our minds, get some exercise, but are there any other things to think about?

    I have carried out a number of surveys over the years where we have swabbed desks, keyboards and (computer) mice to find unsavoury levels of bacteria on surfaces. Of course, the things to watch out for are pathogens, such as E.coli O157, norovirus and cold and flu viruses, which can collect on surfaces if people carrying the organisms don’t wash their hands.

    The Journey to the Centre of the Toilet!

    Imagine the journey of pathogens from hands that have not been washed after using the toilet. They go to your desk via the kitchen, fridge, kettle, cup cupboard, coffee and sugar containers, milk bottle, stair rail and finally arrive at your ‘lunch table’.

    The 2nd Health Protection Agency Infectious Intestinal Diseases Report estimates that 16% of us carry norovirus (many of us would not have had any symptoms so wouldn’t know). If we don’t wash our hands after using the toilet, then this can be carried to other places, including the office desk if we are hot-desking.

    So what can we do to help prevent the spread of disease and make the office a nicer place (even if we don’t eat at our desks)?

    Watch this video for more information about the journey of the germ.

    Top tips for office hygiene:

    • Wash hands after using the toilet
    • Clean your desk using an anti-bacterial or anti-viral product if you are hot-desking and particularly if you have a cold
    • Dispose of tissues after use – don’t leave them on the desk!
    • Use anti-viral hand gel
    • If you have to eat at your desk – wash your hands before you eat if you desk-share, move the keyboard away to remove crumbs – and clean up afterwards!
    • If you use the office fridge, remove any out of date food (before it walks out on its own)!

    How Clean is your Desk?

    A little test – tip your keyboard upside down and tap lightly – what comes out? Of course you can’t see the germs, but this may give you an idea of dirt levels. If you want to test the cleanliness more scientifically, contact me and we can arrange for some swabbing!

    One issue that we have found that can arise from desk lunching in offices is that if people spill crumbs and keep food in their desks, it can encourage mice and coackroaches – be warned!

    As for whether it is healthy, apart from the germ issue, many people use their work computer to do on-line shopping or follow social media in their lunch break, so whilst not actually moving around, at least they are getting a break from work!

    If your office is on an industrial estate with a busy road next door, it can’t be very tempting to get outside and have a walk.

    If possible, I am sure it is healthier to get out for a while for a break, but my guess is that after the brisk walk we should encourage, workers will still be going back to their desks for a cup of tea and their sandwich!

    However, I will leave that to the psychologists to mull over.

  • Make sure you disinfect surfaces and utensils after preparing chicken

    Did your last meal give you food poisoning?

    Food poisoning often starts with a bad bout of diarrhoea and or vomiting. It is understandable that you might think that the cause of your illness is the first thing you throw up, but in fact that can be far from the truth! In a recent survey carried out by Biomaster, 99% of respondents did not know that it takes a while for Campylobacter to make you ill after infection.Read more

  • Campylobacter In the News Again

    Campylobacter is in the news again – what are the key facts?

    What is Campylobacter?Campylobacter has been found in a high percentage of raw poutlry

    Campylobacter is a bacterium that causes very unpleasant illness, which in England and Wales kills around 100 people per year. It is estimated that there may be 460,000 cases per year and 22,000 hospitalisations annually. The illness can linger on for over a week. It causes severe diarrhoea, acute abdominal pain, and can result in complications such as reactive arthritis.

    Where does it come from?

    In the EU around 50-80% of illness is attributed to poultry. Over 60% of retail poultry has been found to contain Campylobacter in a UK study, but the figure may be much higher in Europe where 75% has been quoted. It is also found on other meats and in the environment – wild birds carry it and leave it in their faeces and in water courses.

    How do people get ill at home?

    • Campylobacter is infectious in very low doses, so you don’t need much to make you ill.
    • Contamination has been found on meat and poultry packaging, so the risks can start at the supermarkets.
    • On the way home, the bag can be contaminated (over and over again if a bag for life).Dirty cloths can spread bacteria
    • When you get home other opportunities for contamination can be in your fridge (on to ready-to-eat food), on surfaces, utensils and hands. Clean up with a cloth, and it’s on there too!
    • If you undercook chicken or chicken livers, then you are heading for trouble, as the bacteria could survive.

    What can be done to be safe?

    Understanding the routes of transmission is the first thing – and you can see that hand washing with soap would be very useful at a number of times:

    • After doing the shopping
    • After putting foods away in the fridge
    • After preparing chicken and meat

    You also need to clean up to kill any Campylobacter on surfaces or utensils. Hot soapy water in my opinion is not enough – I am worried that the cloth will get contaminated and then spread the bacteria all round the kitchen!

    Here are my recommendations:

    • Use the dishwasher on a hot wash for utensils
    • If washing up by hand, put dirty utensils in the sink and (carefully)! pour boiling water over them – could be when draining the peas!Dishwashers at high temperatures will get utensils hygienically clean
    • Use an anti-bacterial cleansing spray on the surfaces with disposable paper towels. You don’t need to get through bucket loads of the stuff – a bottle can last a long time if you just use it when you really need to.
    • If you use a cloth, then you will need to disinfect it after use and then leave it to dry – or if disposable, throw it away.


    • Cook poultry and poultry products all the way through – 75 °C is recommended and you can only measure that with a clean probe thermometer. These are very cheap – less than £20. Believe me, that is money well spent! You can’t always tell by looking at food colour whether it is cooked enough. And I am not saying that because we are selling them!


    So once it’s in the pan – blitz those surfaces, utensils and hands, cook thoroughly and job done!

  • Going on Holiday? A few Drinking Tips to Stay Healthy

    gin and tonic -watch out for the iceHealthy Drinking Tips on Holiday

    Thirsty, just arrived in an exotic hot country, flop by the pool – a nice gin and tonic?

    In my experience, this could be where the trouble starts! Did you know that ice (often made from local water) can be full of dangerous bugs? In addition, if it has not been handled correctly (for example the bar man isn’t that good at washing his hands after going to the loo) then there may be extra bacteria present as a result of that.

    And if that isn’t enough to worry about, my top tip is to always insist that you only have bottled or canned soft drinks or mixers, not the ones that come out of a dispenser, unless you are sure the water is fit to drink – because those drinks are made by tap water being mixed with syrup – which may be genuine tonic, Coke, or Fanta syrup, but the water that is added to it is the local brew.

    In many of the places I have inspected, water and fruit juice dispensers in restaurants have beefood and drink - coffeen dirty, and the water has shown up the sorts of bacteria you could find in a toilet! So I don’t touch those either – give me a nice bottle of water with a sealed lid any time – fizzy water for those who don’t trust the seal.

    So maybe just stick to the beer, wine, neat vodka or a nice cup of coffee?

    food and drink - beer clipart


  • Top Tips for a Healthy Christmas

    Traditional Roast Turkey with TrimmingsWe all know how stressful cooking the Christmas lunch is, and you definitely don’t want to add the worry of a houseful of poorly tummies to the mix.

    So rather than leave it to chance, stop worrying about whether your food is cooked enough and at the same time have a lovely tasty Christmas turkey that is cooked to temperature not to colour

    With a simple probe thermometer you can take the reading in the thickest part of the meat. Easy. And cheap – a great little thermometer costs only £19.00 from Hygiene Audit Systems.


    And then after handling the raw turkey, do wash your hands and use an antibacterial cleanser for disinfecting and cleaning the surfaces which may have been contaminated with dangerous bacteria.

    Ten Top Tips for Turkey Day!

    • Make sure your fridge is cold enough – use a cheap fridge thermometer – available from supermarkets for around £5. Turn down the temperature you are aiming for 5 °C
    • Storing the raw turkey – use a tray to catch the drip, put at the bottom of the fridge away from anything that is ready-to-eat
    • After handling raw meat or poultry, wash your hands thoroughly using soap and warm water, dry with a paper towel rather than a tea towel.
    • Clean and disinfect anything that may have contamination from raw turkey – use the dishwasher on a high temperature, use an anti-bacterial cleanser and paper towel for surfaces, and don’t use the kitchen cloth or it will simply spread the bacteria all round the kitchen
    • Cook to 75 °C in the thickest part of the meat – use a clean probe thermometer
    • Turkey left overs? With clean hands, strip off the carcass and put on a clean plate, cover and put in the fridge above any raw meat or veg
    • Eat left overs within 3 days of cooking
    • Re-heat left overs quickly and to above 75 °C
    • No room in the fridge? Ditch some of the less important items such as chutneys, jams, sauces etc. and put them in a cold part of the house or in a box in the garage for a few days to make room for cooked meats and foods that could become dangerous if left out of refrigeration.
    • Lots of people using your wc? Keep the soap stocked up and make sure you change the hand towel daily at least to keep the shared bugs down. Use an antibacterial wipe on the flush handle and door handle if you want to be particularly hygienic!
  • It must be the last thing I ate!

    people - sick clipartToday, as is so often the case, I looked at a customer making an allegation of food poisoning, and they were convinced that the last thing they ate caused them to be ill. But this is often not the case at all.

    For example, Campylobacter, the bacteria that causes more gastro-intestinal illness than any other in this country, has an incubation period of 1-5 days, and even as long as 11 days. This means that something you ate many days ago brews up in your intestines until it reaches a critical mass, and then you get the symptoms of diarrhoea – and wow what a nasty bug this one is.

    In the past, patients have had their appendix removed because the intense pain convinced doctors that they had appendicitis. The diarrhoea can go on for days.

    When we are trying to find out the cause of illness, if we know what the organism was that made someone ill, then we can make better investigations into the cause of illness as we can trace back to what was eaten within the incubation period.

    The other red herring is norovirus, which may not have been carried by food at all. This virus is infectious in very low doses, and can be picked up from hand-contact sites, where these have been infected by someone who may be recovering from the illness. Protecting yourself from norovirus is simple – make sure you wash your hands before eating. Imagine if you eat a bag of crisps when travelling on the tube – think where your fingers may have touched just before, and think again about whether you may want to wash your hands – especially when you lick your fingers (UGH).

  • Are we too clean?

    Are we too clean?

    Annie Othen today asked me if we are too clean on her show today (BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio). My answer is not at all! Whilst no-one can or should achieve a sterile home environment, it is nevertheless important to focus on killing the dangerous bacteria in the kitchen.

    There has been much discussion about using hot soapy water and “elbow grease” recently, rather than using disinfectants or anti-bacterial sprays. But whilst hot water over 75 °C would kill bacteria almost instantly, householders would burn their hands with water at that temperature. In fact, even at 60 °C, within 5 seconds you would suffer third degree burns – and at that temperature you would need to apply the heat for over 30 minutes (of course it would cool in 30 minutes so would not work anyway). When using heat to kill bacteria, it’s all about time and temperature. The higher the temperature the quicker the kill.

    So one effective way to clean dishcloths is do what my grandma used to do – boil them up in a saucepan with a bit of washinboil dirty cloths to get rid of bacteriag powder which kills the bugs and cleans the cloths.

    Now certainly the action of scrubbing and rubbing will dislodge some bacteria, which is why it is thought that hand drying is a good part of the hand washing process, but what if you can’t do much scrubbing, because of infirmity, or what if you don’t have time? Furthermore, some bacteria are so infectious that even one organism could cause illness (for example E. coli transferred from a surface to a sandwich). I would rather not take the risk, thanks!

    Not too clean! Target your cleaningto banish the bacteria when it matters

    A quick squirt of an antibacterial spray or using an antibacterial wipe is going to give you instant peace of mind to make sure you have rid surfaces of Campylobacter or E. coli after preparing raw meat, poultry or vegetables.

    I am definitely not advocating using bucket loads of bleach – just targeted cleaning in the areas that really matter. Most of us are time pressed, so we don’t want to waste precious home-time doing too much cleaning!

    The Murky Days of the 19th Century

    Don’t let’s go back to the days of the nineteenth century where children died so young because of infectious diseases and the rest of the population had a reduced life-span. We have the public health movement to thank for improved mortality which was particularly striking in the early part of the last century. Diseases such as cholera and typhoid are a thing of the past in the UK through sanitation measures such as chlorination of water, good sewerage systems and food safety measures. However, new strains of disease such as E. coli O157 and new bacteria such as Campylobacter have replaced them, with thousands of people every year infected, and many hospitalisations and deaths. These diseases are all preventable – so don’t be afraid of a bit of cleaning in the right place at the right time.

    The Allergy Theory

    People are often saying to me that because we are so clean, there are more people with allergies, but this “hygiene hypothesis” has many flaws. According to the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene “this notion is very much misplaced, and, if acted upon without reference to the risks of infection, would be dangerous for our health.”  There are other factors that have been attributed to allergies, including pollution, genetic disposition, lack of physical activity, obesity, socio-economic factors, stress, and even climate change. So please, don’t give me the excuse that we shouldn’t clean because it may be bad for us!

    From my personal experience, with all the home hygiene studies I have been carrying out, there is little evidence that homes are clean anyway – from disgusting dishcloths to terrible tea towels and shocking shower trays, I have found no end of potentially dangerous bacteria in homes around the UK and indeed round the world. So, in summary, target the disinfection where it is needed, if nothing else, and don’t forget that hand-washing is still one of the simplest, most important thing you can do for yourself, your family and others in the community.

  • Are you washing up in a bacterial soup?

    Dr Lisa Ackerley was commissioned to find out how people were washing up

    Recently for the Stop Washing Up Campaign we carried out a survey to see what people got up to when they washed up.

     Key findings were:

    • Water was too cold to kill bacteria -most families were using lukewarm water!
    • Washing up bowls were contaminated with bacteria
    • 95% of scourers and sponges were disgusting – some even had E. coli on them!
    • 60% of tea towels were unsatisfactory – some also had E.coli on them
    • People use their sinks for cleaning all sorts of items – from dog bowls to football boots!Read More

    The trouble I have found is that if water is hot enough temperature to kill bacteria –  then it could burn your hands!

    But if you don’t kill dangerous bacteria that could be present on raw meat and poultry, then this could make you ill.

    What can you do? In this video I discuss washing up by hand.



    It makes you want to rush out and get a dishwasher!

    Dishwashers can give you reassurance of a hygienic washIf you can’t afford a dishwasher, you will still need to kill dangerous bacteria which may survive unless your dish washing water temperature is above 60 °C (this would scald you)!

    Here are some tips:

    • If you prepare raw chicken or meat clean utensils and work surfaces with an anti-bacterial spray and paper towel
    • After washing up, pour a final hot water rinse over crockery and utensil to kill the bacteria
    • Change your tea towel every day and wash them at 60 °C or above
    • Wash your dishcloths with tea towels (I gather up a few days’ worth and then do them all together)
    • Drain your dishes in a clean drainer (check out the cutlery drainer – it quickly gets horrid)!
  • 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