Houston, Is There Slime in YOUR Ice Machine?

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) published findings earlier this month from a two-year study that graded the residential kitchens of more than 13,000 participants using Health Department standards. The survey was conducted through their Home Kitchen Self-Inspection Program, an educational initiative designed to promote safer food hygiene practices at home.

What did they find? Let's just say that if "America's kitchens" were a restaurant, we sure as hell would not be eating there. Even though 89 percent of participants surveyed reported that "restaurant ratings influenced decisions to eat at restaurants", when their own kitchens were put to the test only 34 percent received an A rating, 27 percent a B, 25 percent a C, and 14 percent received a numeric score because they scored lower than 70 percent on the self-assessment.

The group studied was primarily women (68 percent) between the ages 18-59 (78 percent) in homes where English was the primary spoken language (86 percent). 81 percent of participants considered themselves to be the chef in the house.

Naturally, we were curious to see how our own kitchen rated and were happy to see the food safety quiz was still up and functioning online. We zipped along easily through the first portion, past questions we viewed as "no brainers," but the last few sections tripped us up on questions like the ones below:

When cooking big portions of food to serve later (e.g., the next day), I rapidly cool it (i.e., in an ice bath and stirring frequently, separating it into smaller portions, adding ice as an ingredient, using containers that facilitate heat transfer, etc.) and store it in my refrigerator.

No. We're not exactly catering weddings out of our apartment where the refrigerator door barely clears adjacent cabinetry.

When washing my hands, I make sure that no food items are in the sink.

No*. If the statement is "When washing my hands I make sure that no food items are in the sink [that I intend to eat later]" then our answer is of course. In fact, after one too many black light exposes if a food item accidentally falls in the sink it's going in the trash. However, if the statement should be "When washing my hands I make sure that sink is clear of all food items, including those intended for the dispose-all" then I would have to answer no. *We chose to go with the negative in the interest of the survey.

I always throw away damaged kitchen utensils (i.e. chipped knives, rusted can opener) and replace them with new ones.

No. Just how damaged are we talking here?

I close my doors (or screen doors) and have well-maintained window screens so that flies do not enter my home.

No. I enjoy opening the windows sometimes at night and during the Fall and Spring. My screens are old and have some wear. Luckily this has not resulted in flies.

I have a properly working thermometer inside my refrigerator.

No. We're just happy our refrigerator is properly working, considering that it appears to have been crafted sometime during the Nixon administration.

I wash and sanitize my sponge daily and replace it routinely when soiled. (Leave blank if you do not use a sponge.)

No. I run my scrubbie doodad through the dishwasher whenever I do a load, but daily??

The online health inspector's verdict: Your kitchen has received a "B" with a score of 81. What? NO! We demand a recount!

The food safety quiz is a fun, eye opening way to learn more about preventing foodborne illness and get a better appreciation of how high the bar is set for restaurants by the public health department.

Does your kitchen make the grade? Take the LACDPH food safety quiz here. We're interested to know how you scored.

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