Fri, Sep 14, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Money harbors bacteria, Consumers' Foundation says

By Tien Jui-huaand Lan Chun-ta  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Eating immediately after handling currency could make you sick, the Consumers' Foundation warned as it released the results of a study on Wednesday showing that money can contain high concentrations of bacteria.

The foundation tested twelve NT$100 bills and found that nine of them contained Staphylococcus aureus -- a type of bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

Two other bills were found to be harboring Bacillus bacteria.

The number of bacteria on each sample banknote measured between 100,000 and 1 million colony-forming units (CFU).

The bacteria content on one of the bills exceeded 1 million CFU.

Food standards state that the total bacteria in any food item must not exceed 100,000 CFU.

The foundation conducted the test according to guidelines on food and environmental microorganism examination methods set by the Department of Environmental Protection.

The bills used in the test were collected at traditional open-air markets, bakeries, drink stands and cafeterias in Taipei in July.

Central bank official Tsai Yen-shu (蔡炎樹) said that consumers were welcome to exchange old or dirty banknotes at any financial institution.

Meanwhile, Tri-Service General Hospital family health doctor Chen Yung-huang (陳永煌) said that Staphylococcus aureusas did not pose a serious health threat as long as people wash their hands.

Chen warned, however, that people who lick their fingers while counting bills risked swallowing bacteria.

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