Healthy living

Nearly half of household cleaners "ineffective"

bleach based products give best results against norovirus Fail to kill food poisoning viruses

As many as 40 per cent of common household surface cleaners are ineffective against viruses responsible for half of all food poisoning outbreaks, according to a new study.

The study also found that the brand of cleaner used makes little difference - only bleach-based products are capable of dealing with these types of viruses.

Noroviruses are responsible for more than half of all food borne gastroenteritis outbreaks, and spread directly by contact with an infected person or indirectly via contaminated objects, foods, or surfaces. So the ability of cleaning products to deal with this class of virus is vital in the fight against food poisoning.

The researchers, from the Université Laval, looked at the effectiveness of three types of cleaner - bleach-based products, alcohol-based products, and quaternary ammonium–based products in dealing with viruses.

Lab tests showed that five minutes of contact with a bleach-based disinfectant reduced the concentration of noroviruses on a stainless steel surface by 1,000 times. Alcohol- and quaternary ammonium-based products were found to be 100 times less effective.

The researchers also found that it only takes 10 minutes for a norovirus to firmly attach itself to a steel surface, so the selection of the correct cleaning product is crucial.

Professor Julie Jean, from the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences who led the study, said: “This is of particular concern considering that some 40% of the commercial surface disinfectants on the market are alcohol or ammonium based."

"Once attached, these viruses can survive for weeks and potentially contaminate anyone who touches them. And it's highly probable that our findings on stainless steel surfaces also apply to other materials," concluded Professor Jean.

The research is published in the Journal of Food Protection.

This article was published on Thu 18 March 2010

Image © Thomas Perkins -

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