Don’t Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Don’t Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
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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.

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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 “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 looking at the white bar, we’re number one, 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Anthony Albright / flickr

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 “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 looking at the white bar, we’re number one, 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Anthony Albright / flickr

Doctor's Note

Since so few restaurant and deli workers wash their hands (see Restaurant Worker Hand Washing, and Hand Washing Compliance of Retail Deli Workers), it should come as no surprise that anything they handle can become contaminated. Most meat is contaminated with 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, and check out my other videos on food poisoning.

For more context, check out my associated blog post: Probiotics and Diarrhea.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

11 responses to “Don’t Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

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  1. 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 as well (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 foodborne
    illness here
    and a thousand other topics
    here
    .    

  2. When I was a young lad my Uncle would tell me he laundered his money.  Now I know why.
    No he wasn’t obtaining money illegally, he was a germaphobe.

  3. This reminds me of why I never put my precious veggies onto the supermarket checkout counters. After seeing dripped blood from someone’s meat package all over it and the cashier wiping it off, I decided it might not be a good idea!
    I always bag my foods — even if I’m not going to be eating the skins or will be washing them — to keep them protected. As it is, my food has been handled more than I’d like already.
    The money thing is a good reminder too. Paper and coin always seemed dirty to me anyway.

    1. Strix:  You raise a great point.  I’ve been trying to save resources by not using the plastic bags to hold fruits and veggies which I pick up at the grocery store.  But then those foods end up directly on the conveyor belt–AND get touched by the people who are touching money.

      I have purchased plenty of those reusable produce bags, but keep forgetting to bring them into the store with me.  I think it is high time that I start making the effort.  I’m already bringing my own reusable large grocery bags.  Time to start bringing in the produce bags too. 

      Thanks for the push.

      1.  I know! I hate those plastic baggies, but use them when I failed to bring enough cloth bags from home.
        You might try making your own, Thea :^). Do you sew, knit, or crochet? They are super-easy to make!

    2. Exactly my new mentality. People always laugh at me when I’m at home and don’t want to touch money, and tell the kids over and over to wash their hands after handling it.

  4. Australia’s money is cleaner because their bank notes are made from a non porous polymer rather than paper. I think all countries should do this.

  5. I used to go to a Mr. Submarine and watch this guy try to save gloves by handling the subs with one hand and money with the other. On closer observation, I’ve noticed he ended up cross contaminating the money and food anyway. So after I mentioned this to him, I had him put on new gloves for me every time.

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