Cold facts from a seat of learning

November 28, 2012

I’m starting my own Middle East diversionary tactic today in the hope that this might restore some sense of proportion to the newspapers’ front pages. And here is Rosengard’s Breaking News Headline: Saudi Arabia has dirty fridges.

In an international study of nine countries, 95 per cent of Saudi fridges failed the bacteriology test for E. coli.

No, this is not a Zionist conspiracy. “But, what do you personally know of kitchen hygiene in Jeddah?” I can hear the JC’s sole Saudi reader ask.

Well, this disproportionate and totally unprovoked assault (that seems currently to be the phrase that’ll get you press coverage) on the civilian fridges of Saudi Arabia, comes from no less an authority than John Oxford, Professor of Virology at the University of London and chair of the Hygiene Council.

In the interests of fairness and balance, I feel it right to point out that, although the inside of a Saudi fridge clearly is not somewhere you or your family would want to spend the night, even in the 150-degree heat of a Saudi summer, when it comes to their toilet seats, you could chop your gefilte fish on them.

For, as Professor Chuck Gerba of Arizona State University has discovered, the most hygienic part of your home is your toilet seat – certainly as compared to kitchens. And that includes Saudi toilet seats. In fact, they are so clean, says Gerba, that people really could be having their breakfast, lunch, and dinner using them, lid-down, as a table.

Gerba, a microbiology professor, adds that people “don’t realise they’re talking dirty every time they pick up their phone, because they never clean it” and: “the average desktop has 400 times more bacteria than on a toilet seat.”

He also reveals that “your shopping bag has more faecal bacteria than your underwear. At least you wash them regularly… the kitchen cutting board has four times more faecal bacteria than your average toilet seats.”

The much maligned toilet seat has had lousy PR for as long as I can remember, and has topped the “top 20 dirtiest places in our homes” chart forever.

Now, apparently, its long reign on the throne (sorry, I couldn’t resist) is over. “It’s one of the cleanest things you’ll run across in terms of micro-organisms,” Gerba says. “It’s our gold standard – there are not many things cleaner than a toilet seat when it comes to germs.”

Where, you might ask, did I get all this valuable, myth-busting information from? The answer is that I obtained it from another, much-maligned institution, one with a reputation for fair, balanced and impartial reporting – yes, I’m referring to the BBC.

It remains to be seen if my shock news of the state of Saudi fridges will knock Israel’s attempts to protect its citizens from unprovoked rocket attacks from Gaza off the front page, and put Assad back on it where he belongs. But at least I’ve done my bit.

I usually compose my JC column sitting at the kitchen table but this week, for hygiene reasons, you can guess where I am writing it.