Let’s get one thing straight. I (Joe) am not a germaphobe. Yes, I do wash my hands before eating, but I do not sterilize everything in sight.
What I don’t understand is why so many visitors to this website seem to think it is OK for a barista to handle money and then grab a coffee cup by its rim or push down a lid with the palm of the hand.
Some time ago, we asked a question: “Are You Concerned about Coffee Cup Contamination?” Here are just a few answers:
“I have no concern about this whatsoever. Stop being so paranoid.”
Justin offered this:
“I understand the ‘barista and the lid’ anxiety, but it’s based on psychology and appearances, not science or medicine. If you SEE it, it becomes a worry, like the roach on the wall of the restaurant. Disgusting, and you may walk out. But if you never saw it, no big deal…keep your neuroses to yourself!”
Jane was outraged:
“This is much ado about nothing. ‘Germs’ are everywhere and our society has become a bunch of germophobes because the cleaning industry has decided they could cash in on it. Hand sanitizer has become our worst nightmare. We have this amazing thing called an immune system and it would do its job if people would let it and use a bit of common sense.
“If coffee lids are such a hazard, then so is everything else you come in contact with through the day. Think about where your hands have been and what all you touch!
“Watch that steering wheel in your car. Your car keys. Your car door. The radio knob. Your children! How about the gas pumps? Oh the list could go on and on! I might be more concerned about what is in the water being used to make the coffee than I would be the lid of the cup.”
“And so? Do not: breathe — touch anything — eat, and so on and so on. The concern here seems ridiculous. Anything we do in life has risk. So why are coffee lids any different than any other object?”
OK, you get the picture. There are obviously a lot of folks who think my concerns about coffee cup lid contamination is much ado about nothing. But a recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why You Shouldn’t Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is,” tells another story.
According to the author, Robert Lee Hotz, “…researchers at New York University’s Dirty Money Project found that currency is a medium of exchange for hundreds of different kinds of bacteria as bank notes pass from hand to hand.”
The study in question assessed DNA footprints on $1 bills. Over 3,000 different kinds of bacteria were identified, not to mention fungi and viruses. It turns out that U.S. currency is a great breeding ground for all kinds of nasty bugs, including the kinds that can cause stomach ulcers, pneumonia, skin infections, food poisoning and goodness knows what else.
When a barista takes money, makes change and then grabs a coffee cup, fills it and then places a lid on top, there is bound to be transfer of microbes from cash to hands to cup to lid. That means every sip of coffee (or tea) transfers some of those germs to your mouth and then to your body.
Normally, the high acidity of your stomach is a pretty good killing ground for such invaders. But some organisms, like norovirus, are so infectious that just a tiny bit can make you sick as a dog. If you are taking an acid-suppressing drug like esomeprazole (Nexium), omeprazole (Prilosec) or lansoprazole (Prevacid), there is a possibility that the germs that make it to your stomach will survive.
So, what’s our People’s Pharmacy bottom line? First, we think the person handling the money should NOT be grabbing coffee cups or lids! Money is probably a lot dirtier than a toilet seat and you surely do not want to put your mouth there. The person who grabs your cup or lid should either be wearing gloves or washing hands periodically. Perhaps that seems excessive, but it seems like common sense to us. What do you think? Please let us know your opinion. Is this a tempest in a coffee pot? Share your own opinion below.