Eating at Your Desk Ups Food Poisoning Risk

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CHICAGO—Results of a new survey by the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods’ Home Food Safety program reveal the majority of Americans are playing Russian roulette with food safety by eating at their desks. The findings come nearly four years after a University of Arizona study revealed desks carry 100% more bacteria than kitchen tables and 400% more pathogens than toilet seats.

According to the “Desktop Dining Survey: 2011 Results," 83% of Americans typically eat in their office or cubicle in an effort to save time and money—62% eat lunch; 50% snack at their desk; 27% eat breakfast; and only 4% of Americans eat dinner at their desktop. Only 36% of people surveyed said they clean their work area once a week, and 64% do it once a month or less.

When it comes to safe refrigeration of lunches, perishable foods need to be refrigerated within two hours (one hour if the temperature is greater than 90 degrees Fahrenheit) from when it was removed from the refrigerator at home. Survey results showed 49% of respondents admitted to letting perishable food sit out for three or more hours, meaning foods may have begun to spoil before the first bite.

“For many people, multitasking through lunch is part of the average workday," said registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Toby Smithson. “While shorter lunch hours may result in getting more accomplished, they could also be causing workers to log additional sick days, as desktops hide bacteria that can lead to foodborne illness."

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