/ Food & Drink, Health

The kitchen check: are you a sloppy Joe or hygiene machine?

A sink filled with dirty dishes

Food Safety Week is in full swing and the FSA wants us to think about our hygiene habits in the kitchen and the risks we take. Are you brave enough to take the Kitchen Check test?

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) uses the annual Food Safety Week to get people thinking about the way they handle food and the everyday risks they might be taking with their health. Most of us are pretty savvy about washing our hands before food preparation, but how many of us are guilty of those little habits that could add up to a nasty case of food poisoning?

I like to think that I’m the tidiest person in my household. I try to clean as I go while I’m making a meal and I’m quite fastidious about washing my hands throughout food preparation. I decided to take the FSA’s new Kitchen Check test to prove my hygiene greatness. You can probably guess what happened next.

Yes, I got my comeuppance. My Kitchen Check results declared that I am a ‘Sloppy Joe’, and not the ‘Hygiene Machine’ that I expected. So what am I doing wrong in the kitchen?

Be honest about your hygiene habits

The FSA’s test asks you to be completely honest about how you prepare and store food. So I was completely honest that I don’t clean my kitchen surfaces with hot soapy water or disinfectant before I start cooking. I also owned up to having food in my fridge that is well past its ‘use by’ date, not to mention foods that recommend being consumed within a few days or weeks of opening. I have this strange belief that products like mint sauce and chutney can’t really go bad. Maybe I’ve just been lucky so far.

Do you go the extra mile to keep your kitchen and fridge bug-free? The FSA has lots of great recommendations to reduce the risk of yucky viruses, but some of them were things that I just don’t think about.

For example, I’m not sure if I’ve ever washed my oven gloves since I bought them several years ago. They are silicone coated and they get wiped down when I accidentally dip them in my dinner, but that’s as far as my cleaning goes. Is that normal? I’m now terrified that everyone else out there washes their oven gloves each week and I’m taking outrageous risks.

So please put my out of my misery – am I the only sloppy Joe out there? If you’re feeling brave, try taking the Kitchen Check test as honestly as you can and let me know how you fare. Will you be our first Hygiene Machine?

Try taking the FSA Kitchen Check test. Are you a...?

Sloppy Joe (44%, 26 Votes)

Kitchen Cavalier (31%, 18 Votes)

Hygiene Machine (25%, 15 Votes)

Total Voters: 59

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The Kitchen Check tips on the FSA website are useful but I’m not so sure about the Test. I expect that I would lose marks on the questions about pets and oven gloves, because I don’t have either. The significance of putting a chopping board on the work surface completely escapes me.

Thank goodness there is no reference to using antibacterial cleaning products that are potentially harmful and known to damage the natural environment.


Well it seems I am a “Sloppy Joe” as well. I thought I would at least be in the middle bracket but it’s an odd test that gives no marks for not having a pet. A number of other things in the test were not applicable so points were not available there [we never eat burgers at home – if we ever do have one, like last Sunday at an outdoor event, it’s probably the most unwholesome and unhygienically prepared junk food imaginable]. Never mind, it’s a good refresher course in best practice. It provoked the thought that every “home” style magazine I look at seems to showcase the most cluttered and untidy kitchens with ancient dust-gatherering [preferably rusty] ornaments on every ledge and shelf and even hanging from the ceiling over the must-have island unit [always equipped with tip-over bar stools that probably lead to more spillages and droppings than would ever occur when sitting on a proper chair at a proper table].


Welcome to the Sloppy Joe club, John. I also felt a bit penalised by the test for not having a pet.

It’s quite easy for me to have clear work surfaces, because my kitchen is too tiny for any of those knick knacks that the ‘ideal kitchen’ is supposed to have.

Do you think you’ll change any of your kitchen habits because of the test results, or did the test mainly reinforce what you already knew?


Katie – I think the test was largely a reinforcement of existing good practice on our part. We are lucky to have enough food preparation space which is not used for other functions and are constantly keeping the kitchen and the utensils clean, so the concept of a thorough weekly clean is not generally applicable. We could organise the refirigerator better although I don’t think there are any hygiene risks in the present situation because cooked and uncooked meat are always in the correct relative positions – it is just a case of making better sense of the crazy array of shelves, compartments and racks to accommodate the multitude of different sized food packages that we seem to have nowadays. There was nothing past its date in the fridge when I last looked except from some unopened English cheddar cheeze which, on examination and the Ward taste test, seemed to be absolutely perfect.

In terms of keeping kitchens clean, it would help if the cooker hood was banished. This is usually an ugly and disgusting appliance that gathers dust and possibly harbours bacteria. I have to stand on steps to clean and polish it even though we never use it. As a product it has passed into the “essential” category. Perhaps it’s to compensate for the sealed-in effect of modern windows and doors [they can be opened, you know!]


I blame the bad spelling on the West Country farmhouse cheddar.

richard says:
12 June 2013

I am very sceptical – I’m 82 – never had a case of food poisoning in my home or camping. Which has included raw and rotten food due to force of circumstances. I have always had three large dogs in the house since around 1960 and they always eat with me and we share – Haven’t even vomited at home. The ONLY case was a meal eaten in a restaurant that caused the entire restaurant to suffer severe vomiting. I do well cook as a matter of course. But I am certainly very very sceptical – I can only assume this is about people so unhealthy they cannot cope. I don’t even get colds.



Most bacteria are harmless but some are not, and those that can cause food poisoning are well documented. Food poisoning can be unpleasant, sometimes people end up in hospital and rarely it is fatal. Although there is some difference in individual susceptibility, your own experience where many people become ill after eating together helps to demonstrate that everyone can be affected and hence no-one should be complacent.

richard says:
14 June 2013

You’ve missed the point – My food poisoning was CAUSED by someone else NOT by me – I had NO CONTROL on how the food was prepared – I repeat I have never suffered food poisoning in my home with food prepared by me IN MY LIFE – I have done a very extensive amount of camping where any form of washing was a luxury and dirtiness was the order of the day – YET I never ever suffered self inflicted food poisoning in my life. So I am very sceptical of this FSA report – I( have suspicions that you suffer from various illnesses (one of those in poor health). If after 82 years I have not suffered from self inflicted food poisoning (the actual topic of this conversation) then I am not complacent – my food preparation has been proved to be sufficient – Like Clive I believe that far too many people are obsessed with hygiene.. Purely as a matter of interest I can recognise poisonous plants because I studied and taught biology and many many years experience of camping under canvas – somehow I doubt if you have.