CLEVELAND - The Centers for Disease control said 76 million illnesses are caused each year by food-borne illnesses. It's a statistic you don't want to be a part of this Thanksgiving.
The number of illnesses are probably much higher, because the CDC admits food-borne illnesses from home kitchens are vastly under-reported.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health created a quiz for consumers to test their food safety knowledge. Between 2006 and 2008, 13,000 adults took the quiz. The results show 1 in 7 kitchens would flunk a health inspection . Only 34 percent of the respondents would earn an A.
So, we visited three Northeast Ohio kitchens with the Lorain County Health Department to see if kitchens would fare better here.
We visited two kitchens without giving the homeowners advance notice. The third kitchen belongs to Joyce Lewis. She knew we were coming, and wanted to see if her immaculate-looking kitchen was any match for a health inspector.
Health inspection checklist
"I'm going to get my checklist and go through it," Registered Sanitarian Dorothy Kloos explained.
Kloos is a Lorain County Health Inspector and spends her days randomly checking restaurants. She makes sure the kitchen staff is following food safety rules so nobody gets sick.
"Some of these food-borne illnesses can kill you," Kloos said.
Lewis has grandchildren and wants to keep them healthy. Right away, Kloos found a problem.
"I'm going to have to demerit you for the pet," Kloos said.
We found pets in all three homes we visited. The Lorain County Health Department said your furry friend is a source of contamination.
"I'm an animal lover, but no pets," Kloos explained.
Jewelry is another problem. You need to remove it, but Lewis admitted she doesn't remove it.
"Look at all those places where soil and bacteria can lurk and hide," Kloos said pointing out the crevices on a ring.
Viruses are another big threat and the number one cause of food-borne illness. They're all around us and don't need time to grow, so you'll find them hiding in an unlikely place -- your freezer!
"Ice is a very good food-borne disease transmitter," Kloos said.
We found an ice scoop lying directly on top of the ice cubes. That's a big problem for the Health Department since so many different hands touch the scoop handle.
While Lewis mishandles some items in her kitchen, overall she's doing a great job.
Two homeowners gave us permission to randomly check their kitchens with no notice. We found rusty spatulas, dirty oven mitts, a scooper hiding cookie dough, and dust and debris under the stove.
"Popcorn, it can attract critters," Kloos said pointing to the debris under a stove.
You also need to check for debris on top of metal can lids.
"You want to make sure the mouse urine, the mouse droppings, dust debris anything else that's on there is not going to fall on the food," Kloos explained.
Clean the metal cans before you open them.
These kitchen inspections may gross you out, but the homeowners said it also opened their eyes.
"A lot of things you just take for granted that could cause a health problem," Kohl said.
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