Is Your Kitchen as Clean as a Restaurant's?

Quiz Gives Your Kitchen a Cleanliness Grade

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 2, 2010 -- Just how clean is your kitchen? An online quiz rates your hygiene practices with a letter grade -- and gives you the information you need to keep your food safe from bacteria.

That's according to a CDC report in the Sept. 3 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Researchers studied data from the years 2006-2008 from about 13,000 adults who completed a quiz developed by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health called the Food Safety Quiz, included in their Home Kitchen Self-Inspection Program.

The voluntary self-inspection and education program was designed to promote safer food hygiene practices at home.

The CDC, in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for Sept. 3, 2010, reports that:

  • 34% of people who took the quiz received a rating of A.
  • 27% received a B.
  • 25% received a grade of C.
  • 14% received a numeric score because they scored lower than 70% on the self-assessment, which asked such questions as whether foods were properly stored, preparation areas properly cleaned, and hands washed often.

The quiz is available online at

Learning About Food Safety

The CDC report says the Food Safety Quiz is based on emerging evidence that the use of online, interactive learning tools are conducive to learning and can make it easy to master safe food handling practices.

The 57 questions on the quiz were guided by food safety education principles from the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- namely, that food should be cleaned, separated, cooked, and chilled properly.

Available only in English, it stresses such food handling processes such as sanitizing cutting boards after handling poultry, safe handling of raw eggs, and appropriate methods for handling cooked and uncooked foods.

Improvements Needed on Hygiene Practices

The quiz focuses on food hygiene practices considered to be the most relevant to home kitchens, and focused on cleaning and chilling as two areas that people might overlook when preparing food at home.

People who scored an "A" were mailed a placard in recognition of their good food handling practices.

According to the CDC report:

  • The initiative has been credited with helping to reduce by 13.1% the number of hospitalizations for food-borne infections from non-typhoidal salmonella, campylobacter, and E. coli in the L.A. region.
  • Tools that educate the public about kitchen safety practices can complement established restaurant hygiene rating programs and aid other prevention efforts to reduce food-borne illnesses.

Citing statistics from Los Angeles, the report says that:

  • 27,129 people visited the web site for the quiz.
  • 71% were from the L.A. area.
  • 13,274 completed the quiz.
  • 68% of respondents were female, ranging in age from 18 to 59.
  • 86% spoke English at home.
  • 81% said they were the primary cook.
  • 17% said they felt they had become ill in their lifetimes due to eating at home.

Other findings:

  • 27% said they did not store partially cooked foods that would not be used immediately in a refrigerator before final cooking.
  • 28% kept on jewelry or didn't keep fingernails trimmed when cooking.
  • 36% said they didn't have a working thermometer inside their refrigerators.
  • 26% admitted their kitchen shelves and cabinets weren't clean and free from dust.
  • 9% reported they had flies in their homes, 6% reported cockroaches, and 5% rodents.

CDC researchers write that home-kitchen-related food-borne diseases are underreported, and that improper practices occur often in home settings. Food-borne diseases caused 2,590 hospitalizations and 17 deaths in Los Angeles County during the 1999-2007 period, numbers that are considered underestimates, according to the report.


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SOURCES: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Sept. 3, 2010; vol 59: pp 1098-1101.

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