Eating in a car is a sure ticket to food poisoning

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A young woman is eating a salad while seated in a car.

We all live life on the run, but is eating in a car worth getting a staph infection? (Photo: ThinkStock)

Unless you’re the type of person who obsessively cleans the steering wheel, gear shift, door handles and other surfaces inside your vehicle with antibacterial wipes, eating in a car can place your health at risk. London’s Daily Mail reports that numerous germs associated with food poisoning, skin infection and even vomiting were found in a study by Halfords, a British car accessories retailer. Staphylococcus, bacillus and other harmful bacteria can contribute to a variety of internal and external (skin) infections.

Staph infection: Why eating in a car isn’t a good idea

Staphylococcal infections are transmitted easily between people and can lead to the skin infection known as impetigo and intestinal food poisoning, writes the Mail. Bacillus cereus can sit in a vehicle’s heating ducts until the system is turned on and the warmth causes the spores to grow. Similarly, leaving the car parked in the hot sun can do the same. And such bacteria tend to thrive on food particles left behind after drivers have been eating in a car.

Cleaning all surfaces drivers and passengers touch is necessary

If surfaces that drivers and passengers touch are not cleaned, food poisoning that causes severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can result. Staphylococcus tends to congregate on surfaces that come in contact with a driver’s hands (wheel, shifter, handles, knobs), while bacillus is generally found in soil and dust, so it is most often found in vehicle seats, floor mats and carpets. Of the infected cars in the Halfords study, 70 percent admitted to eating or drinking in a car, and leaving containers in the vehicle overnight. Of all cars surveyed, half said they cleaned the inside of their car less than once a month, says the Daily Mail. Halfords recommends car owners clear out their vehicles at least once per week.

Eating in a car is bad, but cooking on an engine is A-OK

If you want to cook something like a hot dog on your engine block, you can make it happen, says How to Do Things. Wrap it tightly in aluminum foil – maybe even double- or triple-wrap – as this protects both the food and the engine parts. Pop the hood and place the wrapped hot dog on the part of your engine that generates the most warmth, but is safely away from any wires and lines. This will vary from car to car, so do a hand test sometime and see if you can feel where the most heat is escaping. Obviously, don’t touch the engine with your hand, as doing so will cause a nasty burn.

Once you’ve found the place, secure the food using something that won’t melt or burn up. You want the food to fit snug, but not cover the engine so much that the engine overheats. Close the hood and drive. Times will vary depending upon what you’re cooking, the specifics of your engine and the type of driving you’re doing. A book like “Manifold Destiny” should give you more info on times for cooking hot dogs or many other foods on your engine block.

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How to Do Things

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