Cookery Challenge

Cookery Challenge


Are smart devices in the kitchen a recipe for contamination?

In today’s digital age, where technology seamlessly integrates into our daily lives, even the most traditional spaces like the kitchen are not spared. From searching for recipes to watching cooking tutorials, capturing moments for social media, smart devices have become indispensable tools for many during meal preparation. A recent research project commissioned by safefood investigated the use of smart devices and food preparation in domestic kitchens across the island of Ireland. Led by a team from Queen’s University Belfast, St Angela’s College Sligo, and Ulster University, this study revealed important insights into consumer behaviour and associated microbiological food safety risks.

12434537262?profile=RESIZE_584xUnderstanding Consumer Behaviour
Observations from the in-kitchen observational study revealed a significant reliance on smart devices during meal preparation, with smartphones emerging as the device of choice for most participants. However, what caught the researchers’ attention was the fluctuating adherence to food safety practices. Despite the awareness of potential hazards, such as cross-contamination, observed behaviours often fell short of recommended guidelines. Notably, hand hygiene, particularly after handling raw ingredients like chicken and eggs, was found lacking in a significant portion of participants.

The Microbial Terrain
The microbial analysis further illuminated the potential risks lurking on our smart devices. Food poisoning bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli were found to survive on smart device screens for more than 24 hours. In addition, Enterobacteriaceae contamination was detected on 6% of pre-cleaned tablets, showing cross-contamination of these devices during the cooking activity.

Insights from Consumer Perspectives
Delving into consumer perceptions through focus groups and an online survey uncovered nuanced attitudes towards food safety and smart device usage. While participants acknowledged the risk of bacterial transfer from devices, there existed a low perceived risk of contracting food poisoning at home. Moreover, socio-demographic factors such as gender and education level influenced both selfreported and observed behaviours, indicating varying levels of attentiveness to hygiene practices.

Implications and Recommendations
The findings of the research project have implications for both public health and consumer education. Despite the widespread use of smart devices in the kitchen, there
exists a critical need to enhance consumer awareness of the associated food safety risks. This is particularly relevant for more vulnerable people such as those who are over 65, pregnant or have an underlying medical condition which compromises their immunity. 

Recommendations from the project included promoting regular disinfection of smart devices and advocating for a dedicated kitchen device could mitigate the risk of cross-contamination. In addition, by encouraging consumers to adopt simple, yet effective measures, such as handwashing between handling raw ingredients and touching devices, we can collectively strive towards safer kitchen environments. 

Dr Mairead McCann, Technical Executive at safefood, emphasised the importance of this research, stating, “Understanding the potential risks associated with using smart devices in the kitchen while cooking high-risk foods is crucial for ensuring food safety in our homes.” This sentiment underscores the necessity of addressing these findings to safeguard public health.

In conclusion, while smart devices have transformed the way we approach cooking and meal preparation, their integration into the kitchen presents its own set of challenges. By combining technological convenience with an awareness of food safety, we can keep our cooking both creative and safe for everyone. For more information, please see

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