New Research: Cleaning Sponges is a Bad Thing

~ Contributed by J. Martin Little, MS, REHS, EHS IV

Recently, a study conducted by the University of Furtwangen (located in Germany) found that cleaning dirty sponges actually helps out the very worst bacteria, instead of destroying them.  A common method that people use to kill bacteria, ‘nuking the sponge’ in the microwave, only kills the weak ones while the strongest, smelliest– and even potentially pathogenic– bacteria will survive.

The destruction of the weak bacteria creates a space for the stronger bacteria to occupy and thrive due to a lack of competing microorganisms.  This cleaning method results in a sponge that actually becomes ‘stinkier and nastier’ and you may regret not just tossing it, as the report published in Scientific Reports states.

The study looked at the DNA and RNA of organisms from 14 different samples taken from sponges, and from those, 362 distinct species of bacteria where identified.  More interestingly, about 82 billion bacteria were living in just a cubic inch of sponge. “That’s about the same density of bacteria you can find in human stool samples”, the lead microbiologist, Markus Egert stated.  That’s right, it’s like you’re cleaning with a stool specimen.  This description may lead to an undesirable visual image; however,  it stresses the importance of maintaining clean, sanitized and well maintained cleaning devices in YOUR kitchen—whether it’s a home kitchen or a food service kitchen.  Remember that, according to our Rules and Regulations for Food Service Chapter 511-6-1-.05(1), Sponges may not be used in contact with cleaned and sanitized or in-use food-contact surfaces.

(Study content taken from the August 8th, 2017, New York Times)


National School Lunch Week 2017: Communication

Part 3 of the Food-Safe Schools Action Guide encourages communication, which is important in all areas of food service. Communication with local partners, such as, school nutrition managers, school administrators, school nurses, emergency planners, and even students, is very important in cultivating an environment of food safety. Please see the food safe schools link for further information within the action guide on how school nutrition professionals are encouraged to communicate with various partners:

– Submitted by Danielle Pierre, MPH Intern

National School Lunch Week 2017: Action Sheets

To continue our discussion for National School Lunch Week 2017 (October 9th-13th), we will dive into the other two parts of the Food-Safe Schools Action Guide: ACT and COMMUNICATE.  The USDA Food and Nutrition Services’ Office of Food Safety suggests that after school nutrition professionals assess their current food safety efforts, they use action sheets to help build a framework for each area of focus. Action sheets may include, but are not limited to the following areas: training and education, employee health, produce safety, and managing food allergens. Please see the following link for a complete list of action sheets suggested by the Office of Food Safety:

– Submitted by Danielle Pierre, MPH Intern

National School Lunch Week 2017

Did you know that The National School Lunch Program serves more than 30 million children every school day?  In 1962, President John F. Kennedy created National School Lunch Week to celebrate the benefits of the National School Lunch Program.  As a reminder to all school nutrition professionals, we want to emphasize the importance of your efforts to provide food safe schools—and say Thank you!

The USDA Food and Nutrition Services’ Office of Food Safety suggests that school nutrition professionals follow the three parts of the Food-Safe Schools Action Guide to create a culture of food safety within schools.  These guidelines can be applied to other food service establishments as well.  This week, we highlight the first part of the action guide, Assess your food safety effort: a review of the current safety policies, procedures, and programs and development of actions to improve current efforts.  [We will look at the other 2 parts next week.]

Please see the following link for the Action-Guide Review Checklist:

Additional Links:

USDA Food and Nutrition Services:

National School Lunch Week:

– Submitted by Danielle Pierre, MPH Intern


This week is National School Lunch Week.  As we recognize the school lunch program, we say farewell to Cynthia Downs who was the Executive Director of Cobb County Public School’s Nutrition program.  Ms. Downs retired last month after providing great leadership to the Nutrition Program staff since joining them in 1997. Emily Hanlin has, in turn, moved from the Douglas County Schools System back to Cobb where she first got her start to become the new Executive Director of the Cobb Program. With that change, Danielle Freeman has been promoted to the position of Nutrition Program Director for Douglas County.

S-A-L-U-T-E to all involved in the preparation and service of safe food to the thousands of children across our district!