Washington, July 5 : Pathogens in refrigerators at home may partly be responsible for food-related sicknesses, say experts.
This proposition came from experts who met to address home-based food safety issues at the Institute of Food Technologists' Annual Meeting and Food Expo in New Orleans recently.
Dr. Fur-Chin Chen, a microbiologist at the University of Tennessee, said that a quarter of the refrigerators he inspected during a recent study contained a variety of pathogens.
The researcher also said that vegetable bins were the most contaminated.
"You don't have to go to a restaurant or to a party to get sick," said Dr. Chen.
The experts highlighted the fact that consumers usually avoided weekly cleaning of their refrigerators.
Referring to one study that calculated the percentage of consumers who clean their refrigerators once a month at 50, they said that the figure was likely exaggerated because people failed to clean thoroughly.
According to them, refrigerators shouldn't be more than 10 years old, and that they should be cleaned inside and out with dish soap once a week.
Dr. Sandria Godwin with Tennessee State University's Family and Consumer Sciences suggested that consumers allow the shelves and drawers to air dry.
The meeting also saw panellists discussing the fact that risky food-handling practices increased with education and income, a phenomenon that none of them could explain.
Godwin said that most people, whether well educated or not, thought that they knew more than they did.