“In kitchens where the sink-to-countertop distance was more than 1 meter, the estimated probability of cross-contamination events was nine times higher than when the sink-to-countertop distance was less than one meter” says Anca Nicolau, professor at the Faculty of Food Science and Engineering from the Dunarea de Jos University of Galati, Romania, the coordinator of the study.

So, consumers should prepare their meal on countertops or tables situated at no more than one meter distance from the sink to be more prone to perform the necessary washings.

Food safety concepts should be implemented in kitchen design

This study is the first to highlight the importance of implementing the concept of food safety in the household kitchen design based on significant correlations between kitchen equipment placement and consumers’ food safety practices.

The scientists found that the sink placement plays a major role in facilitating hygienic practices (washing hands, washing kitchen tools, not cross contaminating) during food handling in kitchens.

“Actually we were not surprised to succeed demonstrating that having running water in kitchens and performing the meal preparation in the vicinity of the sink increases at key times the frequency of different actions that we generically name hygiene practices. This is important for not spreading pathogens as Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria around the kitchen and generating cross contamination events that may put consumers at risk” says Solveig Langsrud, Senior Scientists at Nofima, Norway, and the coordinator of the SafeConsume project.

Replacing ‘the working triangle’ with the ‘the food safety triangle’

Based on the same study, the SafeConsume scientists suggest kitchen layouts based on a triangle having its apexes represented by the kitchen sink, working place (usually countertop) and cooking stove. This triangle, which they named the food safety triangle, is aimed to mitigate the risks of foodborne illnesses by creating an arrangement that favours correct hygiene practices.

The food safety triangle combines the principles of ergonomics with those of food safety and is suggested to replace the kitchen work triangle (the triangle formed by the sink, the stove and the refrigerator), which focuses just on efficiency and is often used by architects when designing kitchens layouts.

“We expect to obtain a reduction of foodborne illnesses attributed to households’ environments when the side of the safety triangle formed between the sink and the working place is less than one meter and the perimeter is less than four meters” says Nicolau.

Solving other problems together with geometry problems of kitchens

The SafeConsume scientists found that besides a kitchen arrangement favouring hygiene practices there are other problems to be solved for improving food safety at consumers’ level.

One of them refers to the water supply in the rural areas of Romania, where despite the Government efforts to assure current water, there are still households that have a sink placed in the courtyard or have trouble with the water pressure and are forced to keep the water they need in buckets or barrels.

The other problem refers to losing functionality of kitchen equipment, a situation generating cross contamination events as consumers react by improvising to be able to carry on their food preparation (e.g. using the bath sink when the kitchen sink does not work, carrying water in a bowl and using the same water both for washing meat or vegetables and rinsing a knife or their hands).

Solving these problems is equally important for assuring food safety as a right kitchen layout.

About the research

The results are based on a survey performed on consumers from 10 European countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and the UK) and observed practices in 64 households from five European countries (Norway, France, Romania, Portugal, and Hungary).

The studies are part of SafeConsume, an EU Horizon 2020 project with the overall objective to reduce health burden from foodborne illnesses. Read more about the project


Mihalache OA, Møretrø T, Borda D, Dumitrascu L, Neagu C, Nguyen-The C, Maitre I, Didier P, Teixeira P, Lopes Junqueira LO, Truninger M, Izsó T, Kasza G, Skuland SE, Langsrud S, Nicolau AI. 2021. Kitchen layouts and consumers’ food hygiene practices: Ergonomics versus safety, Food Control, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2021.108433


Press and public relations speaker SafeConsume
+47 479 05 672
[email protected]

Coordinator of the study
[email protected]