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Dining At Work May Cause You To Call in Sick

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  August 31, 2011 06:18 PM

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According to a recent Home Food Safety survey, 83 percent of adults surveyed chow down a meal and snack at their desk, many in an attempt to save both money and time.

While that statistic may not be startling to you in this budget-conscious economy, this frequency of desktop dining may be increasing your risk of foodborne illness, better known as food poisoning.

How? This survey of almost 2,200 adults revealed that only 50 percent of the respondents admitted to always washing their hands before eating their lunch and over 60 percent of them confessed to cleaning their desk area (keyboard, mouse, and desktop) once a month or less. (This would be similar to you sitting down to dinner with dirty hands and dining on a table that hasn't been washed since last month....or longer.) With this lack of office cleanliness, it's not surprising that studies from the University of Arizona found that office desktops, on average, house more bacteria than toilet seats.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one out of every six Americans gets foodborne illness annually with over 120,000 individuals having to be hospitalized. Studies have shown that proper cleaning, especially washing your hands often and before you eat, can be one of the best methods to reduce your risk of not only food poisoning but also seasonal illnesses. According to the American Dietetic Association, moist towelettes can be used when soap and water aren't available.

If the above resonates with you, please consider this two easy tips:

1. Before eating any meal or snack at work, your hands should be washed and scrubbed with soap and rinsed under clean running water.

2. You should also clean your desktop area as you would your kitchen table.

Starting today, make sure that washing both your hands and your office surface area (or any surface area, for that matter) before you eat becomes as routine as reading your email.

For more home (and office) food safety tips, visit

The Home Food Safety program is a food safety public awareness program created by the American Dietetic Association and Con Agra Foods, Inc.

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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