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multitaskers beware: germs abound on office desks and keyboards

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A recent survey shows that 83% of Americans typically eat in their office or cubicle in an attempt to be more efficient. Are your clients among them? Unfortunately, unless they practice vigilant hygiene with regular soapy handwashing and frequent desk and keyboard cleaning, they could be incubating an environment ripe for food-borne illnesses.

According to a new survey by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and ConAgra Foods’ Home Food Safety program, a majority of Americans eat lunch (62%) and snack throughout the day (50%) at their desks, while 27% typically find breakfast the first thing on their desktop to-do list. Late nights at the office even leave a small percentage (4%) at their desktop for dinner.

“For many people, multitasking through lunch is part of the average workday,” says ADA spokesperson Toby Smithson, RD. “While shorter lunch hours may result in getting more accomplished, they could also be causing workers to log additional sick days, as desktops hide bacteria that can lead to foodborne illness.”

Only half of all Americans say they always wash their hands before eating lunch. To reduce the risk of food-borne illness, Smithson advises workers to wash their hands with soap and warm water before and after handling food and to keep their desks stocked with hand sanitizer for times when they can’t get to the sink. “A clean desktop and hands are your best defense to avoid foodborne illnesses at the office,” she says.

According to the Home Food Safety survey, only 36% of respondents clean their work areas—desktop, keyboard, mouse—weekly, and 64% do so only once a month or less. A study updated in 2007 by the University of Arizona found that the average desktop has 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table and 400 times more than the average toilet seat. “Treat your desktop like you would your kitchen table and counters at home,” says Smithson. “Clean all surfaces, whether at home or work, before you prepare or eat food on them.”

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Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster is the editor in chief of IDEA’s award-winning publications. She is Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified and is a Rouxbe Certified Plant-Based Professional cook.

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