Yes, drivers, it's your turn to be condemned as filthy disease-carriers.
Apparently eating in your car is going to make you die of a horrible bacterial infection. There are all kinds of nasties in there. Here's what the technical terms really mean.
Scientists testing swabs taken from a typical family car discovered bacteria bacillus cereus and staphylococcus in the interior, including the steering wheel, gear stick and door handles.
Bacillus cereus is a common bacterium found in soil. It can cause food poisoning if it's in your food but unless you routinely wipe your dinner on your garden (or your car) I wouldn't worry about it. You're much more at risk of this from dodgy food outlets.
Staphylococus aureus is not MRSA. MRSA is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and that started in, and is still mostly found in, grubby hospitals. It's a subset of the normal bacterium - which can cause problems if it gets into you, anything from boils to septicaemia, but unless you wipe everyone's nose with your bacon sandwich before eating it, there's not much to worry about. The non-MRSA type is commonly found living on humans, especially up noses, and you can go your whole life without it causing you any trouble at all.
Finding these in car interiors is no surprise. Not finding them would be a surprise. It would mean you must be treating the interior of your car daily with high pressure steam and bleach, washing your hands and taking off your shoes every time you get in. But let's not allow that to get in the way of a good scare story.
Dr Anthony Hilton, reader in microbiology at Aston University said: 'Although many strains of bacteria are harmless, some can cause unpleasant illnesses.
Reality time. Forget the kindergarten-level microbiology in the above statement. Almost all bacteria are harmless. Some are essential to human, animal and plant life. Very few are dangerous, it's just that they are the only ones you hear about. Avoiding all chance of catching something is impossible, but simple steps are enough to reduce the risk to minimal. How do you imagine humanity survived the Stone Age when the best thing available was to rinse your eating implements in a sheep-shit-ridden stream? We aren't that delicate.
'People would be horrified at the prospect of eating from a toilet seat however they ought to be aware that eating from a contaminated car dashboard may represent the same health hazards.Really? I don't know what drivers get up to in their cars now, nor what new features have been added, but I don't recall dashboards having enough space to fit a flush. Do you really do that on the dashboard these days? Disgusting.
I don't eat off the toilet seat. I don't eat off the floor. I don't even eat off the table.
I use a plate. Unless it's a bag of chips, in which case I have paper between the food and the supporting surface. Unless you line your chips up along the dashboard before eating them, they shouldn't come in contact with it.
More from Paris - sorry, Anthony Hilton:
'It is important, particularly now the weather is becoming warmer, for people to ensure that do not leave food debris in their cars as bacteria such as Staphylococcus and Bacillus Cereus can thrive on even tiny crumbs. Also if you have animals in your car they can contribute to the presence of harmful micro-organisms.'
Do you really eat your dinner off a dog-hair covered seat? If you do, you deserve all you get. Look, bacteria are all over you, right now. They fill your guts and every orifice and they coat your skin. They are on the keyboard you are using and they dance in the fridge when the door is closed. That fridge light doesn't go off when you close the door. Bacteria have rewired it to strobe. There are millions of them in every handful of dirt including the dirt in your potted plants. If you are going to waste time worrying about bacteria, get yourself laminated and bathe in Dettol. Cook everything in a pressure cooker on full belt for 15 minutes every time. It's the only way to be sure. You'll still die, you know.
Bacteria need water. More than warmth, they need water. Hot weather is not good for them. Dry dirt is not to their liking. A shrivelled bit of bread under the driver's seat won't support them. The heat reached inside a car in the summer sun will stop most of them and even kill many of them. Dessicated substrates won't support bacteria although some moulds can deal with that. You are at far greater risk with a leaky car that has damp carpets than you are with a lost chip that drops behind the handbrake. Even then, you are only at risk if you're a carpet-licker and we already have too many of those anyway.
Dr Hilton, a member of the Society for Applied Microbiology warned: 'Those who eat in their cars should treat it as an extension of their home and maintain the same levels of hygiene as they would in their dining room.'
I'm also a member of that society. It's not an exclusive club. You just need to be a microbiologist and pay the fees. Membership does not make you an expert. Quoting it here is irrelevant, other than to impress anyone who doesn't know that it's really just another scientist's club.
You know, I suspect people who eat in their cars would be likely to have the food in something rather than spread over the seats and dashboard. Just as they do at home. Unless their home eating habits involve dumping the food straight on the table to save on washing-up.
I have a very nice wooden dining table. I am not going to apply harsh disinfectants to it and there is no need. I don't eat from that surface. The plates I use are clean but not sterilised. I don't use bleach when washing up and I don't soak them in industrial disinfectants overnight. There's no need. You are going to swallow bacteria when you eat. As long as what you eat isn't rancid or contaminated, it's not a problem. Sterilising the eating surface won't help with that anyway.
As for dropped food - do you eat food you've dropped, at home or in the car? Depends what it lands on, doesn't it? If it landed in the mud from your shoes or a pile of dog hair, you'd most likely not eat it. Unless you're starving and if you're at that level of starving, you can't afford a car. Or a house. Or, apart from rarely, a bag of chips.
Nobody who owns a car is ever hungry enough to eat a dried-up chip that's been under the seat for a week and if you don't eat it, you won't get food poisoning from it.
It's all just another 'get the driver' story. Your car is a mobile bioweapon now. Everywhere you go, children will fall dead in your wake and heaven forbid you ever let your child in the car. That child who eats garden dirt and worms with impunity is highly susceptible to car germs because they are different even though they are the same.
Just like smoke from a cigarette is different to smoke from a bonfire.
Prepare to be taxed or fined because of your travelling health hazard any day now. Be ready to have mechanics refuse to service your car in case of third-hand botulism or second-hand squits. No, the threat isn't real, but have any of them been real lately?
When it comes to punishing the public, reality just gets in the way.