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WHAT Is Filthier Than a Toilet Seat?

Here's a ridiculous question: Would you cut up your vegetables on a toilet seat?

You might as well, since the average cutting board is riddled with far more dangerous bacteria than the average toilet seat, according to Dr. Charles Gerba (a.k.a. "Dr. Germ"), a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona.

Speaking of the toilet seat, he told The BBC News, "It's one of the cleanest things you'll run across in terms of microorganisms. It's our gold standard. There are not many things cleaner than a toilet seat when it comes to germs."

Specifically, Gerba found that there are 50 fecal bacteria per square inch on the average toilet seat. That may sound like a lot, but your kitchen cutting board has about 200 times fecal bacteria on it than that.

How does fecal bacteria land on your cutting board? Blame it on raw meat products or the viscera from inside the animal, where much fecal bacteria originates.

Toilet seats are so clean, relatively speaking, because we worry about them being filthy. We do something about it, scrubbing them regularly. Apparently we don't have the same concern about our cutting boards.

And if this isn't gross enough for you, note this: Your kitchen sponges and dishcloths are coated in even more harmful bacteria than the cutting board. According to Gerba, there are about 10 million bacteria per square inch on a sponge and a million on a dishcloth.

Using the toilet seat as a measure of filth, that makes the sponge 200 times dirtier and the dishcloth 20,000 times dirtier than the toilet seat.

If you're feeling smug because you know YOUR kitchen is spotless and none of this applies to you, think again. A study conducted by the Hygiene Council, an international body that compares hygiene standards across the world, found that 21 percent of "visibly clean" kitchen cloths actually contained high levels of contamination, including E. coli.

What can you do? Keep things in your kitchen as clean as your toilet seat.

How to clean a cutting board: Use two cutting boards--one for meat and one for vegetables and fruits. Put plastic cutting boards in the dishwasher to kill bacteria. Place wooden cutting boards in a sink filled with hot water and dish soap. Scrub them thoroughly with a scrub brush.

How to clean a kitchen sponge: Rinse the sponge thoroughly, giving it a good soaking. Place it in a microwave-safe bowl or plate and microwave it on high for two minutes. Do this daily.

How to clean a kitchen dishcloth: Use a clean cloth every day. Wash the used dishcloths with your laundry in hot water.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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