Washing hands is the most important step in food safety.
Food Safety for “Ordinary People” – Article 2
In 2002, a food standards agency surveyed 1,000 food workers. Of those surveyed, 39%…390…did not wash their hands after using the toilet. 53% of people do not wash their hands before preparing food. Breaking it down even further, it has been determined (based on this survey as well as others) that half of men and a quarter of women regularly do not wash their hands after using the bathroom.
Some of the reasons people gave for not washing their hands properly or at all were 1) lack of time/too busy (54%) 2) forgetting/having to remember (18%) and 3) distraction from other/competing tasks.
Hand washing is the simplest yet most neglected disease prevention measure. Bacteria can live on hands for up to three hours. Washing your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water will prevent the transfer of germs from your hands to your food. Some of the most dangerous foodborne illnesses can be spread through improper hand washing. E. coli 0157:H7, a deadly foodborne illness that killed many in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s, can be transmitted from person to person through improper or neglected hand washing.
Proper hand washing is essential after tasks such as using the restroom and before preparing food. Interestingly, Washington state food laws require food workers to wash their hands in the restroom after using the facility, and then enter the kitchen again before preparing food. One wash is for “show” as the food worker re-contaminates his/her hands after touching doorknobs etc as they were handled by someone who did not wash their hands. The second hand washing is the real food safety requirement.
Proper hand washing is important to prevent illness. The now all-too-common “wash and go” approach is just as ineffective at preventing foodborne bacteria as not washing at all.
how to wash your hands properly
o Use soap and warm water.
o Make sure your hands are moist forward apply soap
o Apply plenty of soap to hands
o Rub hands vigorously for 20 seconds (two rounds of “Happy Birthday”)
o Clean all surfaces, including:
o back of hand
o Between the fingers
o under the nail
o Wash your hands thoroughly
o Dry hands with paper towels.
Many people consider a nail brush to be necessary to wash their hands and keep one near the sink. The problem is the nail brush gets wet and stays that way. Moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria to grow. Don’t leave your nail brushes by the sink unless your nail brushes are in sanitizer. Undernails can be cleaned without using a nail brush.
Proper handwashing does not require microbiological or antibacterial soaps.
From The New York Times:
Studies show that more than 70 percent of hand sanitizers sold are now labeled antimicrobial, and Americans appear to be increasingly willing to pay top dollar for them. But the truth is, most consumers probably don’t always get what they think they do. Over the years, studies have repeatedly shown that antibacterial soaps are no better than plain old soap and water.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Community Health 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 present on the hands of people who used antibacterial soap or regular soap. At least four other large studies had similar findings.
In fact, the only question now may be whether using antibacterial soaps will create strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, doing more harm than good. Last month, the FDA convened experts to discuss, among other things, whether antimicrobial products should be more strictly regulated because of the potential risks they pose.
the bottom line
Studies show that antibacterial soaps are no more effective than regular soaps.
Due to the recent popularity of waterless hand sanitizers, there is a misconception that this solution can replace hand washing. While it’s good to have a solution on hand for situations where handwashing isn’t possible, such as when you’re not home and near a handwashing facility, it’s not a substitute for proper handwashing, and it’s not approved as a substitute by any environmental agency. U.S. Health Department. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with regard to regulations regarding proper procedures in food service, recommends that hand sanitizers be used not as a substitute for soap and water, but only as an aid.
To properly sanitize hands, use soap and water, suggests Barbara Almanza, an associate professor at Purdue University who teaches safe hygiene practices. Hand sanitizers can and should not replace a proper cleaning routine with soap and water.
The best way to prevent foodborne illness from spreading from person to person or to loved ones you cook for is proper hand washing.