Hand washing, the most important step in food safety – Food safety for the “average person” – Article 2

Hand washing, the most important step for food safety.

Food safety for the “average person” – Article 2

In 2002, a food standards agency conducted a survey of 1,000 food workers. Of those 39%…390 of those surveyed…didn’t wash their hands after going to the toilet. 53% do not wash their hands before preparing food. Broken down even further, it was found (on the basis of this and other surveys) that half of all men and a quarter of all women do not wash their hands regularly after going to the toilet.

Some of the reasons people don’t wash their hands properly or at all are 1) lack of time/busy (54%), 2) forgetting/remembering (18%), and 3) distraction from other/competing tasks.

Handwashing is the simplest — yet most neglected — practice to prevent disease. Germs can live on hands for up to three hours. Thorough hand washing with hot, soapy water prevents bacteria from being transferred from hands to food. Some of the most dangerous foodborne illnesses can be transmitted through improper hand washing. E.coli 0157:H7, the deadly foodborne illness that killed a number of people in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s, is a disease that can be transmitted from person to person through improper or neglected hand washing.

Hands must be washed thoroughly after tasks such as using the toilet and before preparing food. It is interesting to note that the Washington State Food Code requires food workers to wash their hands in the restroom after using the facilities and then again in the kitchen before preparing food. A hand wash is for “show” because the food worker recontaminates his hands after touching doorknobs and the like because they were touched by people who hadn’t washed. The second hand washing is the real hand washing required for food safety.

It is important that hands are washed properly to prevent illness. Today’s all-too-common “rinse and go” method is just as ineffective at preventing foodborne germs as no washing at all.

How to wash your hands properly

o Use soap and warm, running water.

o Make sure you get your hands wet In front Applying the soap

o Apply a generous amount of soap to hands

o Rub your hands vigorously for 20 seconds (two rounds of “Happy Birthday”)

o Wash all surfaces including:

o back of hand

o wrists

o between the fingers

o fingertips

o under the fingernails

o Rinse your hands well

o Dry your hands with a paper towel.

Many people think that a nail brush is necessary for washing hands, so they keep it near the sink for that reason. The problem is that the nail brush gets wet and stays that way. Moisture is a fertile breeding ground for bacteria. Don’t keep a nailbrush by the sink unless your nailbrush is stored in a sanitizing solution. You can also wash under your fingernails without a nail brush.

Microbial or antibacterial soaps are not required for proper hand washing.

From the New York Times:

Studies show that more than 70 percent of liquid hand soaps sold are now labeled as antibacterial, and Americans seem increasingly willing to pay a premium for them. But the truth is, most consumers may not always get what they believe. Over the years, studies have repeatedly shown that antibacterial soaps are no better than plain old soap and water.

A study published in the Journal of Community Health in 2003 followed adults in 238 New York City households for nearly a year.

Month after month, the researchers found no difference in the number of microbes that appeared on the hands of people who used either antibacterial soap or regular soap. At least four other large studies came to similar conclusions.

In fact, the only question now may be whether using antibacterial soaps can do more harm than good by creating strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration convened experts to discuss, among other things, whether antibacterial products should be more tightly regulated because of the potential risks they pose.


Studies show that antibacterial soap is no more effective than regular soap.

Due to the recent popularity of waterless hand sanitizer, there is a common misconception that this solution can replace hand washing. Although it’s good to have the solution handy for situations where hands cannot be washed, such as the Department of Health in America. The Food and Drug Administration, in reference to regulations governing good practice for foodservice, recommends that hand sanitizer should not be used in place of soap and water, only as a supplement.

Barbara Almanza, an associate professor at Purdue University who teaches workers safe hygiene practices, recommends that soap and water should be used to properly sanitize hands. A hand sanitizer cannot and should not replace proper cleaning with soap and water.

The single best protection against spreading foodborne illness from person to person or to a loved one you are cooking for is proper hand washing.

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