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Health Hazards of Eating Lunch at Your Desk

By EmpowHER June 19, 2012 - 1:47pm
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After recent news reporting women multitask more often than men, this is a warning for workers partaking in “desktop dining” or consuming lunch while working at their office desk.

Those who “desktop dine” have an increased risk of food poisoning due to the bacteria mixing among their in/out box, keyboard and family photo. So when was the last time you sanitized and cleaned off your desk along with all your belongings on it?

When you lay a tuna sandwich on the CD you used months ago for a Powerpoint presentation, realize that as a midday multitasker, you are probably in the majority of office employees. Sixty-two percent of Americans regularly eat lunch at their desks, a survey by the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods’ Home Food Safety program said. As most Americans also eat breakfasts on-the-go and midday snacks, you can see a hygiene problem.

A press release from the ADA on August 23, 2011, said that a University of Arizona study found that the typical desk has 100 times the bacteria and germs of a kitchen table and 400 times that of a toilet seat.

But are we concerned about this cleanliness issue? Thirty-six percent of participants on the ADA/ConAgra questionnaire said they clean their work area (desktop, keyboard and mouse) weekly and 64 percent clean it once a month or less.

To prevent sickness that is food-related, “Treat your desktop like you would your kitchen table and counters at home,” said Toby Smithson, an ADA spokeswoman and registered dietitian. It is also beneficial to modify other parts of your lunch schedule.

Here is a checklist:

- Clean all parts of your desk and other countertops before you prepare or consume food on them.

- Within one to two hours of preparing food, put your lunch in the office fridge. Ask the building supervisors how often the fridge is cleaned and if the temperature is below 40 degrees.

- Follow packaging instructions to make sure frozen meals have no cold patches when microwaving them. Understand that leftovers must be warmed up to 165 degrees to eliminate bacteria.

- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before you prepare food.

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