Know Your Germs?

Know Your Germs?

When we look at kitchen sanitisers, antibacterial cleaners, and disinfectants, we look at their kill rate 99.9 or 99.999% and do they kill E.coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, Influenza, H1N1 Bird Flu and Norovirus. However, do we know what these bugs are and what they do? Here is a guide:


Bacteria is a simple single-cell organism that is only visible by microscope. Depending on its genetic material it can be spherical or rod-shaped and when multiplying will grow in rows, uniform or non-uniform groups. We need bacteria (microflora) to aid digestion and produce vitamins such as K. Microflora in a healthy person shouldn't cause any issue and prevents infection, in a vulnerable person (child, elderly) it is more of a balancing act.

What are the most common infectious bacteria? How are they transferred and what types of illness do they cause?

E. coli


E. coli is rod-shaped like a piece of long-grain rice. Generally, it isn't harmful happily residing in the lower gut, however, some strains are a problem. A food-borne disease E.coli causes severe gastroenteritis, fever and kidney damage, particularly vulnerable are children and the elderly. It does this by releasing toxins once it has died. Found in meat products E. coli gets into the food chain by poor hygiene management, allowing faecal matter to contaminate the raw meat. Prevention is the best way to tackle this bacteria, thorough cooking of meat, good hygiene practices that include the use of a bactericidal with a kill rate of 99.999% (EN1276) and hand washing.



Like E. coli, Salmonella is rod-shaped, and it causes gastroenteritis in the same way, with incubation periods being 12-36 hours. Found in dairy products such as milk, eggs, raw chicken and some processed foods, Salmonella is the second most common type of food poisoning occurring in the UK. Wide-ranging, Salmonella can have a long life and is hard to eradicate. Excellent food handling that prevents cross-contamination and hand hygiene is essential.


Microscopic view of virus'

Viruses are a piece of genetic material within a protein coating. They have different structures and functions compared to other micro-organisms. They function as a parasite, infecting a host cell to replicate in the thousands. With a short lifespan outside of a host, viruses use food and surfaces as transport and a route to ingestion.

Hepatitis A

With a long incubation period and a low mortality rate, it is easy to overlook how severe Hepatitis A is. Contracted through poor personal hygiene when handling foods, Hepatitis A is highly infectious and damages the liver causing jaundice.


Infection takes place through water droplets, from coughing and sneezing, some surface can also spread it when hands come into contact with eyes, nose and mouth. A short incubation period people are infectious within two days, the symptoms can include fever, coughing, sneezing and muscle aches. Regular hand washing, self-isolation and good hygiene will help prevent spread.


Norovirus microscopic view

Known as the 'Winter Vomiting Bug', is contracted by touching contaminated surfaces and eating foods prepared by infected people. Causing intense discomfort through gastroenteritis, vomiting and diarrhoea. A passing virus with no long term effects, regular hand washing, avoidance of alcohol gels and self-isolation should prevent spread.

When it comes to germs, vigilance is key, good personal hygiene, good housekeeping, and adhering to strict food handling procedures all help.

If you want to know the difference between 99.9% and 99.999% kill rate look at our infographic explaining it all here.