How can I practice food safety at the office?

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.

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 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 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 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Con Agra Foods, Inc.
Marisa Moore
Nutrition & Dietetics

Great question! We've all seen and heard horror stories about the office fridge and microwave. We spend so much time in the office. It's important to follow the same rules you'd follow at home also at the office to keep your food safe. It may be even more important since we share that space.

Here are a few things you and your officemates can do to help decrease the chances that you'll encounter bad bugs at work.

  • Keep your food cool during transportation from home with an ice pack and/or insulated lunch bag.
  • Make sure the office refrigerator is cooling properly to 40° F or below. If you are not sure, consider investing a couple dollars in a refrigerator thermometer for the office.
  • Set a cleaning schedule to encourage everyone to keep surfaces that may come in contact with food clean. At a minimum, this includes the microwave, fridge, coffee maker and countertops.
  • If you bring leftovers for lunch, be sure to reheat them to 165° F. And for those convenient frozen entrees, be sure to follow the instructions all the way through the "allow to stand for 1 minute in the microwave after cooking" step to ensure proper doneness.
  • Beware of multi-tasking at lunch. If not cleaned regularly, your office phone, desktop, keyboard and mouse can harbor all kinds of harmful bacteria. You don't want to eat that.
  • Before eating, be sure to wash your hands with warm soapy water. If that's not available use a moist towelette or hand sanitizer.

Enjoy your lunch! For more tips on food safety, visit

If you are like most Americans who work in offices, you frequently eat at your desk. Follow these food safety tips before digging in:
  • Refrigerate right away. Perishable foods shouldn't be left out in at room temperature for more than two hours. Refrigerate your lunch as soon as you get to the office. If you don't have a fridge at work, pack your lunch in an insulated bag along with an ice pack.
  • Clean out the fridge. Don't leave leftovers in the office fridge for more than three to five days. Label your containers and toss anything you don't eat in a timely fashion.
  • Reheat to proper temperatures. To kill bacteria, food needs to be reheated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The only way to test the temperature is to use a meat thermometer.
  • Beware of dirty sponges. Damp sponges can harbor harmful bacteria. If your office kitchen sponge isn't replaced on a regular basis, don't use it. Clean your dishes with hot soapy water and dry with a paper towel instead.
  • Keep the essentials handy. Keep hand sanitizer at your desk to use before and after eating. Keep disinfectant wipes handy, too, so spills can be cleaned up immediately.
Also keep food safety in mind when foods are brought to the office to share. When perishable treats are left out for more than two hours, they may spoil.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.