The Germ Cave
Heli J. Roy, Ph.D., M.B.A., R.D. and Quincy Cheek, M.Ed.,
School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center
LSU AgCenter School of Nutrition and Food Sciences
has new educational tool in food safety toolbox
The Germ Cave is dark, mysterious and fun. More importantly, however, the Germ Cave teaches participants
the important techniques of proper hand-washing, keeping food safe and cleaning and sanitizing food surfaces.
The brainchild of two LSU AgCenter extension agents (Quincy Cheek and Lou Altazan Brown), the Germ Cave
consists of four black plastic walls held together on a metal tent frame. It is designed to fit conveniently into a
10-foot-by-10-foot booth space.
Once set up, the inside of the “cave” is transformed into a black-light filled wonderland of small stuffed
animal-like bacteria and glowing balloons hanging from the ceiling. Glow-in-the-dark handprints cover one wall,
and instructions for proper hand-washing fill another wall. Two panels of the Germ Cave sport four bacteria
“characters” with the words: Remember to Wash Your Hands!, as well as LSU AgCenter logos. Optionally, agar
plates can illustrate growing bacteria, which can be displayed on a table along with the Fight Bac! fact sheet for
participants to take home.
The exhibit requires three to four volunteers to set up and dismantle. It also requires a 6-foot table for
exhibits and electricity for the glow-germ lights and two small fans. Groups of 10-12 can go in at one time.
The LSU AgCenter’s Germ Cave is a resource to make everyone aware that foodborne bacteria can make you
sick. It also helps to teach that foodborne illness can strike anyone and that those at higher risk include
pregnant women, young children, older adults and individuals with weakened immune systems.
Interactive Germ Cave is designed to encourage hand-washing
The interactive Germ Cave is designed to encourage hand-washing and engage youngsters in proper techniques of
sanitation. As participants enter the Germ Cave, they are offered a high-five by the leader to show just how quickly bacteria
cross-contaminate or transfer from hand to hand. Everyone’s hands glow under the black light, because the leader applies a
phosphorescent lotion on his or her hands before the participants step into the Germ Cave.
Two agents or program assistants present a five- to eight-minute lesson on hand-washing as part of the educational
program, and participants are offered a hand-washing station or liquid hand sanitizer outside the tent.
Steps in hand-washing