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Smartphones in the Kitchen May be a Recipe for Disaster

Posted in Our Blog on June 9, 2024

Our phones are our constant companions. We take them everywhere we go. But could smartphones in the kitchen make us sick? Researchers believe so. In fact, it is one of the most overlooked spreaders of bacteria and viruses.

A study conducted by SafeFood, a food safety watchdog organization based in Ireland, found that many people do not wash their hands between handling raw ingredients and touching their phones or devices.

Whether it is to set a timer, look up a measurement conversion, or peek at a recipe, you’d be surprised at how often you may touch your phone during the course of cooking.

Smartphones in the Kitchen Can Spread Bacteria

SafeFood warns that harmful bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, or other foodborne bugs can spread easily if home cooks do not properly wash their hands after handling raw ingredients.

These microorganisms can survive on the device for quite awhile and make their way through your home. SafeFood explains that these bacteria can remain for more than 24 hours. That is a whole day of potential cross-contamination.

Touching your phone and then your mouth or anything you eat can spread illness.

But it Goes Both Ways

Unfortunately, contaminating your smartphone in the kitchen isn’t the only concern.

It goes both ways.

Bacteria from your phone, picked up from any number of places – namely the bathroom, can be transferred from your phone to your food.

About 20% of participants were observed preparing food immediately after they touched their device. About a third washed their hands after using their device before handling food.

Handwashing Statistics Contribute to Risk of Smartphones in the Kitchen

Details for handwashing statistics that contribute to the risk factors involved with smartphones in the kitchen are not for the faint of heart. Or stomach, for that matter.

Handwashing After Handling High-Risk Foods

Researchers found that a third (33%) of home cooks failed to wash their hands after touching raw chicken.

Raw chicken!

The epitome of hazardous food in the kitchen.

Even worse. A whopping 75% didn’t wash their hands after handling eggs. A nearly identical offence.

Age and Gender Differences

According to the SafeFood behavioral study, this risky behavior often falls along certain age and gender lines.

According to the study, older participants were more apt to wash their hands after handling raw meat. They also used their devices less often than their younger counterparts. Their food safety knowledge was stronger, and they generally had an increased level of awareness of “device-borne bacteria.”

In a battle of the sexes, women come out on top. Women were more likely than men to wash their hands while preparing or cooking food. However, they were more likely to use their devices while cooking or preparing food. If it makes a difference, women were also more likely to use antibacterial wipes to sanitize their device compared to male participants.

Is Lack of Food Safety Knowledge and Awareness to Blame?

Could lack of food safety knowledge and awareness of how germs spread be the blame for these risky behaviors in the kitchen?


Researchers found that most people had a basic knowledge of food safety. It was the follow-through and application of that knowledge where things went wrong for participants.

One of the biggest misconceptions observed was that participants considered using devices in the kitchen as “the least likely source of cross-contamination.”

The study suggests that “awareness and knowledge do not translate into actual behaviors.” Perhaps because people feel safe from food poisoning when eating food at home. There is “a low perceived risk of food poisoning in the home,” which creates “behavioral challenges.” This lowers the interpretation of risk during meal preparation on the overall risk spectrum for some folks.

But it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Tips for Keeping Yourself and Your Device Safe in the Kitchen

If you must bring your device in the kitchen, the following tips can help you keep yourself, your family, and your smartphones safe in the kitchen while doing so.

Wash Your Hands Both Before and After Cooking

Washing your hands is the easiest way to prevent the spread of germs. This simple task can help prevent cross-contamination from your device to your ingredients and between your ingredients and your device.

Use warm soapy water and rinse under running water. Dry hands with a clean hand towel (not one used to wipe down counters). Never touch your phone after handling raw food.

Keep Your Countertops Clean

Before you paint your masterpiece, you want to start with a clean canvas. When it comes to creating a culinary masterpiece, a clean surface is a must! Clean countertops before you begin and throughout the cooking process if they become dirty or contaminated. Putting your phone down onto an unclean surface can expose it to harmful bacteria. Reduce the risk of cross-contamination by keeping your workspace clear and your countertops clean.

Disinfect Your Device

Disinfect your device before and after cooking. If you must have your phone present with you in the kitchen, ensuring that it is sanitized before you begin and after you are done can reduce the spread of harmful bacteria. Disinfecting your device is even more important if you have handled raw ingredients such as meat, poultry, or eggs while cooking.

This is something that many people may not think about. In fact, only 10% of study participants indicated that they clean their devices daily.

When cleaning your device, be sure to follow your manufacturer’s instructions to prevent damage. If possible, use antibacterial wipes (containing at least 70% alcohol). Pay close attention to cover the screen, buttons, and even the edges.

Better Yet, Leave the Phone in Another Room

Your best bet is prevention. If possible, leave your phone in another room. Once food is prepared and consumed, you can resume your technological activities. If you must take a picture of your food (sometimes it just deserves documentation), be sure to wash your hands again before eating.

Stay in Touch with Make Food Safe!

If you’d like to know more about food safety topics in the news, like “Smartphones in the Kitchen May be a Recipe for Disaster,” check out the Make Food Safe Blog. We regularly update trending topics, foodborne infections in the news, recalls, and more! Stay tuned for quality information to help keep your family safe, while The Lange Law Firm, PLLC strives to Make Food Safe!

By: Heather Van Tassell (contributing writer, non-lawyer)