A U.K. food safety expert says that cookbooks have so much potentially harmful bacteria clinging to their pages that they should be banned from the kitchen. According to Richard Conroy, home cooks are underestimating the food poisoning dangers posed by simply leafing through their favorite compilation of recipes.

Using cookbooks while handling food in the kitchen can be a dangerous habit, according to a U.K. food safety expert. (Photo by Tim Sackton)

“We’ve all got them at home – rows of cookbooks in the kitchen that sit there, gathering bacteria, until we dig them out and start preparing a meal. They are a bio-hazard waiting to happen,” he told The Sun newspaper.

“And when you splash the pages of a cookbook with the food you’re cooking – as many of us have – you’re only adding to the problem. The opportunity of cross-contamination when flicking through a recipe book is tremendous,” Conroy added.

Instead, he recommends that home cooks print out the recipe they’re planning to use and then throw it away afterward.

Conroy also said that home cooks should regularly wash their hands in hot, soapy water and remember to disinfect kitchen working surfaces.

More people these days are using mobile phones, tablets or laptops in the kitchen to follow online recipes, but Conroy warns that can be just as dangerous as using contaminated cookbooks.

“We often take our smartphones and tablets into the kitchen without running an antibacterial wipe over them first,” he noted.

The screens on iPads are particularly problematic in a kitchen context, according to a 2013 study by Which?, a U.K. consumer watchdog group. That study tested 30 tablet and smartphone screens and computer keyboards and found high levels of Staphylococcus aureus and other pathogens rivaling, and even exceeding, the levels sometimes found on toilet seats.

One big difference the group noted was that toilet seats, flush handles and toilet door handles are, or should be, regularly cleaned. Which? recommends that people get in the habit of cleaning their tablet and mobile phone screens and keyboards using products that won’t damage them.

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