I think it’s fair to say my cell phone wouldn’t qualify as being food safe.
I’ve never thought to actually clean my cell phone, nor considered its hygiene implications, until a recent visit with my brother. He’s a chef at a fancy restaurant, one where celebrities dine (I remain envious of the fact he got to meet Lou Reed).
During one conversation, he noted my cell phone and asked if I have to be on it all the time, understanding it’s likely an important tool of the job. I admitted I’m on it much more than I ever thought I would be, having put off acquiring one for as long as I could. My brother expressed his, well, irritation with the excess cell phone use he sees in his industry, where customer service and cleanliness are immeasurably important. One scenario of concern raised was the food server who takes their cell phone into the washroom with them. While they may have washed their hands for the minimal 20 seconds required before returning to service, it’s unlikely the cell phone received the same attention. And yet they’re back to checking messages or what have you, running their fingers across their screen – the same fingers that will be serving food momentarily.
Why this irritates my brother, in addition to being a workplace distraction, cell phones can also be dirty little devices. One U.S. study (Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials 2009) took 200 cell phones from the hands of 200 participants and found 94 per cent demonstrated evidence of bacterial contamination. A University of Arizona microbiologist found cell phones to carry “10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats.” And in yet another study, this one from the UK, scientists found one in six mobile phones in Britain to be contaminated with E. coli. I read in another news story that pathogens like C. difficile can live on a cell phone for days. Gack.
Of course, you can use your cell phone to check all this out for yourself. But I think I’m on board with my brother – if you’re serving, preparing or doing anything with food, be it for yourself or others, maybe hold off on Googling until later.