What’s lurking in your kitchen?

TaLeiza Calloway

Inspectors raise awareness about food safety, preparation and preventing illness

Having a clean kitchen can prevent disease and foodborne illnesses. Meghan O’Donnell, senior finance major, takes a self-inspection kitchen test developed by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Services of California in her apartment at Ho

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Prevention can be as simple as having the refrigerator set at the right temperature, to cleaning cutting boards and washing off counter tops.

The kitchen is more than a place where food lives. Disease lurks there, too.

To deter unsafe food preparation and exposure to foodborne illness, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Services in California developed a home kitchen self-inspection exercise. However, kitchen safety is a universal issue that applies to all states and all kitchens.

The self-inspection is an online exercise that begins with basic background information and then goes into specific questions about kitchen practices and food preparation. At the end of the inspection, participants receive a numerical score and a letter grade similar to those given to restaurants, and recommendations for improvement.

Jonathan Fielding, director of public health and health officer in Los Angeles County, explains at the welcome portion of the test that in the United States, it is estimated that 76 million people experience a foodborne illness. The Centers for Disease Control also estimates there are about 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths related to foodborne illness, Fielding wrote.

While the test targets residents of California, the questions asked during the inspection are ones that anyone can respond to and think about for their kitchen. For example, the inspection begins with questions about what type of food the participant eats, whether or not he or she has gotten sick from eating a certain type of food, and whether or not he or she considers the rating of restaurant before he or she eats there.

Margaret Stallman, senior integrated life science major, is mindful of the importance of keeping the kitchen clean. Though she said she likes to sweep, she always puts raw meats and vegetables on a cutting board.

“We use disinfectant at my house for everything,” she said. “I clean the counter before and after I cook.”

Cleveland resident DuJuan Moore went through the self-inspection and was surprised at his grade. He said he thought some of the questions were common knowledge, while others were about things he did not know. Some things people just know to do, such as rinsing fruits and vegetables before eating them, he said.

“You do a lot of the things they asked naturally,” he said. “You don’t really think about it when you’re doing it.”

Moore cleans his kitchen regularly and said he thought his kitchen deserved an “A.” The inspection proved otherwise. He received a score of 78 – a “C.”

Ashu Mathur, senior integrated life sciences major, said he does not think about foodborne illness on a regular basis because his family keeps their kitchen clean.

“I’d give it a ‘B,'” he said. “It’s clean when we clean it, which is a few times a week.”

Mathur also admitted his family has one dish rag that cleans everything like everyone else.

Senior finance major Meghan O’Donnell said she tries to keep her kitchen clean, too. If she had to give herself a grade, it would be a “B,” she said.

“It’s neat,” she said. It’s probably a little dusty on top of the refrigerator, but I try to keep it tidy.”

To receive a kitchen grade, visit the Los Angeles County Environmental Health Services Web site at

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