The latest news is that if children eat food off crockery that has been hand washed, rather than cleaned in a dishwasher, they are far less likely to develop allergies.
Scientists found that manual washing-up left more microbes in place on utensils and crockery meaning that children’s immune systems became more developed, making them significantly less likely to develop eczema and asthma. The same goes if they grow up on a farm, or have pets, or eat fermented food.
In a paper published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, Swedish researchers report that kids who grew up in households where dishes are hand-washed as opposed to sterilized in a dishwasher were less likely to report suffering from eczema, asthma, or hay fever. With the goal of uncovering practical habits that might protect against allergies, the study questioned the parents of 1,029 Swedish children aged 7 to 8.
The finding is in line with the hygiene hypothesis, which suggests that excessive cleanliness is responsible for a growing allergy epidemic. The idea is that exposure to germs in early childhood is necessary to stimulate the immune system and reduce the risk of allergy development.
However, abandoning the use of a dishwasher could be an expensive prospect. Households with a dishwasher were found to use on average 50pc less water and 28pc less energy than the households that didn’t own one.
Previously, experts warned that while dishwashers can be more hygienic, poor designs and overfilling can leave dishes less clean than hand washing. But if you wash up by hand for more than nine minutes while running the hot water, or use more than six washing-up bowls for your dishes, then you are likely to save more by fully loading the dishwasher up once.
The revelation that dishwashers could result in more instances of childhood allergies came as it emerged that peanut consumption can reduce allergies. The New England Journal of Medicine's findings from the first large-scale trial testing a method of preventing food allergy, suggest parents may have been given wrong advice about peanuts for decades. Barring peanuts and other allergenic foods from babies altogether might actually increase the risk of food allergy.
Ho, hum! What are we to believe? Experts and studies clash in their advice all the time.
I'm a firm believer in allowing young children to live as natural a life as possible, playing in the soil, rolling about with pets, and exposing their skin to the elements in all types of weather.
We have a small dishwasher, but rarely use it. My husband, who is the chief cook, prefers to wash up in the sink. How about you?