Background: Kitchen sponges are a major source of cross-contamination as they can transfer foodborne pathogens, infectious agents and spoilage causing microorganisms to food contact surfaces. Several studies have revealed that university students adopt poor practices regarding food safety, hygiene, and the handling of kitchen cleaning equipment. Methods: A total of fifty kitchen sponges were collected along with a questionnaire addressing social demographics and kitchen sponge usage by students living at the University of Sharjah dormitories. The effect of storage (3 and 10 days) on the microbial population of kitchen sponges at room temperature (21 °C) was assessed. Enterobacteriaceae isolated from sponges were identified and their antibiotic resistance determined. Results: Student responses revealed that kitchen sponges used to clean food contact surfaces were also used to clean the oven (32%), sink (26%), refrigerator (10%), and to clean spills on the floor (4%). Kitchen sponges contained high counts of mesophilic aerobic bacteria (7.9 log10/cm3), coliform (7.2 log10/cm3), Enterobacteriaceae (7.3 log10/cm3) and yeasts and molds (7.0 log10/cm3). After storage of the sponges at room temperature (21 °C) for 3 and 10 days, the number of mesophilic aerobic bacteria, coliform, Enterobacteriaceae and yeasts and molds decreased by 0.4 and 1.3 log10/cm3, 0.7 and 1.4 log10/cm3, 0.4 and 1.1 log10/cm3, and 0.6 and 1.3 log10/cm3, respectively. The most frequently isolated Enterobacteriaceae were Enterobacter cloacae (56%) and Klebsiella oxytoca (16%). All E. cloacae isolates were resistant to amoxicillin, cefalotin, cefoxitin and cefuroxime axetil. Conclusions: This study showed that students living in dormitories lacked good hygienic practices and were at increased risk of food poisoning. Kitchen sponges were highly contaminated with potentially pathogenic bacteria which could be transferred from the general kitchen environment to food contact surfaces and consequently lead to food contamination.
- Antibiotic resistance
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health