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The study aim was to determine the presence of total and faecal coliforms on kitchen surfaces, in tap water and on the hands of caregivers in households on both sides of the US–Mexico border.Samples were collected in 135 randomly selected households in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. Different surfaces throughout the kitchen and head of households' hands were sampled using sterile cotton swabs moistened in D/E neutralizing solution. Sponge/dishcloth and drinking water samples were also obtained. Total and faecal coliforms were enumerated on m-Endo LES and mFC respectively. Total coliforms and Escherichia coli in drinking water samples were enumerated in accordance with the Quanti-Tray™ method. Sponge/dishcloth samples were the most commonly contaminated kitchen sites, followed by countertops and cutting boards. We recovered faecal coliforms from 14% of the hands of child caregivers, and this indicator was moderately associated with self-reported failure to wash hands after using the toilet (OR = 3·2; 95% CI: 0·9, 11·1).Hand washing should continue to be emphasized, and additional interventions should be directed to specific kitchen areas, such as sponges/dishcloths, tables/countertops and cutting boards.There is a need for additional interventions regarding kitchen sanitation.