Is your office kitchen a health hazard?

An attractive young businesswoman having coffee while working at her office desk
An attractive young businesswoman having coffee while working at her office desk

If you're reading this in the office over a cup of tea or coffee, you might want to think twice before you take your next sip.

According to microbiologist Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona, nine out of ten mugs in offices carry dangerous germs - and in one fifth of cases, this includes fecal bacteria.

See also: Work could kill you - or at least make you very sick

See also: Poo bugs found in KFC ice

The reason is that we're washing our mugs up using sponges that aren't cleaned or replaced anywhere near often enough. And when a dirty cloth spreads bacteria to a cup or mug, the bugs can live for several days.

"People are aware of the risk of germs in the restroom, but areas like break rooms have not received the same degree of attention," says Gerba.

"This study demonstrates that contamination can be spread throughout the workplace when office workers heat up lunch, make coffee or simply type on their keyboards."

In fact, research from the University of Salford has revealed that our computer and phone can carry a whopping 10 million bacteria - 400 times more than the average toilet seat.

The team suggests that we should all be washing our hands as regularly throughout the day, and using anti-bacterial wipes on your keyboard and phone.

Similarly, the risk of sipping poo bugs along with your coffee is solved easily enough by taking care of hygiene yourself. Always wash your cup thoroughly in hot water with a clean sponge - you may want to take it home each night - and use sanitiser on work surfaces to be on the safe side.

But you may be surprised to hear that you should be replacing your kitchen sponge as often as once a week if you want to stop it making things worse rather than better.

According to German researchers, microwaving or boiling a sponge or cleaning cloth doesn't get rid of all tummy bugs - and can even help them spread.

Alternatively, you could just pop out for a takeaway coffee every time...