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Bacteriology in the Kitchen

Nature volume 160, page 50 (12 July 1947) | Download Citation



An interesting article by Dr. Irene Hutchinson (Brit. Med. J., 134, Jan. 25, 1947) directs attention to the unsatisfactory methods employed in many communal feeding centres for the cleaning of utensils used for eating. In a London dormitory town in which food inspection was kept at a very high level, unannounced visits were made to twenty-five kitchens of hotels, restaurants of multiple stores, day-nursery kitchens, teashops, snack bars and a civic restaurant. Samples of washing-up water in actual use were taken at the peak hour between 12.30 and 1.30 p.m., when conditions were at their worst, and swabs were taken from spoons, cups, forks, glasses and plates which had been used and washed and were ready to be used again. The organisms obtained from these sources are listed, and Dr. Hutchinson concludes that the cleaning of eating utensils is “very unsatisfactory, and that pathogenic organisms are likely to be spread by the users of different articles”. The lack of washing machines, the difficulty of getting soap and washing powders and the scarcity of drying towels make it very difficult to feed people hygienically. In one only of the twenty-five kitchens were dysentery bacilli found on spoons, and Dr. Hutchinson comments that this “may suggest the origin of the sporadic case of ‘diarrhœa’”. Other findings of pathogenic staphylococci may help to explain the high incidence of septic mouth lesions so common during recent years. The proprietors of the various premises visited showed great interest in the work and helped it in every way that they could. An annotation in the same issue of the British Medical Journal (p. 143) critically discusses the results obtained, and suggests that the greatest need is for education of the people who handle food. In the United States much progress has been made in this matter, and in Great Britain the Central Council for Health Education is arranging courses of instruction on food hygiene for food handlers (Health Educ. J., January, 1947, p. 11). Facilities for dishwashing and for the cold storage of food, says the annotation, need to be greatly improved. Few people will disagree with this conclusion. It may be compared with the need for the adequate treatment and care of milk bottles which was discussed in Nature (153, 31; 1944).

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