A profile of the study “Dirty Money: An Investigation into the Hygiene Status of Some of the World’s Currencies as Obtained from Food Outlets.” The level of fecal bacteria contamination on banknotes is compared between Australia, Burkina Faso (Africa), China, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Image thanks to Anthony Albright.
The reason food service workers are supposed to wear gloves is that they could potentially pick up an infection touching a public surface like a doorknob or faucet and then transfer it to our food. Well if touching common surfaces could contaminate your hands, what about money?
“Dirty Money: An Investigation into the Hygiene Status of Some of the World’s Currencies as Obtained from Food Outlets.”
“A total of 1280 banknotes were obtained from food outlets in 10 different countries and their bacterial content was enumerated. Who had the most contaminated money? They looked at Australia, Burkina Faso in Africa, China, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Here’s the graph. note this is a log scale so this is like hundred-fold difference in bacterial contamination. Let's do the cleanest one first. Which country has the most hygienic dollar?
That’s a hint, as only three of the countries use quote unquote dollars. The United States and our winner Australia, along with runner up New Zealand. The most contaminated belongs to China, though not all bacteria are the same. If you’re just looking at E. coli, for example, as an indicator of fecal contamination, then we’re number 1, leading the world at 55% of our bills contaminated with E coli., with Berkina Faso, the third least developed country in the world, a close second.
They recommend that “the handling of food and money should be physically separated by employing separate individuals to carry out one task each or handling food only with a gloved hand and money with the other hand. Or, if neither of these precautions can be effectively implemented, it is highly recommended that food service personnel practice proper hand washing procedures after handling money and before handling food.”
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena
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Since so few restaurant and deli workers wash their hands (see Restaurant Worker Hand Washing and Handwashing Compliance of Retail Deli Workers), it should come as no surprise that anything they handle can become contaminated. Most meat is contaminated fecal bacteria (see Fecal Bacteria Survey), in fact, so much so that children can pick up infections by just touching the outside of meat packaging. See Meat-Borne Infection Risk from Shopping Carts. More on food poisoning here and a thousand other topics here.
For more context, check out my associated blog post: Probiotics and Diarrhea