I know someone who picks up their dog’s poop using kitchen utensils. They think it’s okay because they bleached the utensils and or wash them in the dishwasher. They also use these utensils to prepare their own food.
I do not agree!
Horrified in Horseshoe Bay
There’s some stuff to unpack here, and I’m hoping, if you were staying at this person’s home, that it includes your overnight bag, at your own home, for your sanity.
Sometimes it does not matter if something is technically clean, sanitary, or sterile, but please keep reading. I agree with you, not the acquaintance. The acquaintance may be right on a technicality, but I’m throwing a red card on the play in practice.
Society has expectations. Some are good. For example, we expect people to wash their hands after they use the restroom and before preparing food. Yay, hygiene.
Some are obnoxious, like some gender expectations, but we’re getting better as a whole. Slowly.
There are standards of hygiene, some cultures have many and some only have a few. In some parts of the world, the left hand is for personal hygiene and to do something like touch produce in a store or market with a left hand would be horrifying to bystanders.
This acquaintance of yours has broken a societal expectation. (And some health codes, but they don’t live in a commercial kitchen, I’m assuming.)
They may be technically correct that the item in question is clean and that bleach or the dishwasher can sanitize it, but it really doesn’t matter.
Here, in the US, we may be uptight about many things, which can be frustrating in some regards, but food safety standards have a purpose. We separate kitchens and bathrooms, and that includes pets and their excrement. Cottage food laws that govern what can and cannot be sold after being prepared in a home kitchen exist for a reason. (I live in South Carolina, so I’m linking to information about South Carolina Cottage food laws. Please search for your own state before trying to sell any food made in your home.) Home kitchens aren’t inspected by health officials and can’t be held to standards that keep people safe.
Humans are fallible, we all make mistakes, and we are all imperfect. Maybe one day, Horrified’s acquaintance got distracted and set the utensil on the counter before it was fully clean, or maybe they don’t fully clean it. Using a kitchen utensil to clean up excrement invites the potential for cross-contamination that does not exist if the utensil is only used for its intended purposes in the kitchen. This is why we have standards to prevent mistakes and accidents that have the potential to cause harm.
Clean up any accidents of this nature with paper towels or rags that can go through the laundry. Do not use items that make direct contact with food. It’s just asking for trouble.
The practice described by Horrified’s host made their guest (and heck me) very uncomfortable, and that is a big part of the issue and also needs to be discussed. Just because something you do is safe doesn’t mean it’s always ok. If you are making your guest uncomfortable*, you’re breaking the most basic rules of etiquette. (Hmm, this sounds remarkably like the consent discussions my teens are tired of having with me.)
*Great big caveat here: if the guest is behaving poorly, crossing boundaries, making you uncomfortable, etc., etiquette goes right out the window. Defend your space and yourself first and foremost. Apologize later if you have to.
Can you Home-Eccers out there, do me a favor and reassure me that the idea of using a kitchen utensil to clean up after a pet accident has NEVER crossed your mind? I need to know that this question is an outlier and that some common sense still exists. I want to accept food from other homes without having this question cross my mind ever again.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.