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Handwashing, The Most Important Step For Food Safety – Food Safety For The ‘Average Joe’ – Article 2
Hand washing is the most important step in food safety.
Food Safety for the “Average Joe” – Article Two
In 2002, a Food Standards Agency conducted a survey of 1,000 food industry workers. Of this 39%…390 respondents…did not wash their hands after using the toilet. 53% did not wash their hands before preparing food. Breaking it down even further, it was found (based on this and other surveys) that half of men and a quarter of women regularly use the practice of not washing their hands after visiting the bathroom.
Some of the reasons people don’t or don’t wash their hands include: 1) lack of time/being too busy (54%) 2) forgetting/needing to remember (18%) and 3) being distracted by other/competing tasks.
Hand washing is the simplest – but most neglected – disease prevention practice. Bacteria can survive 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 many people in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s, is a disease that can be spread from person to person through improper or neglected hand washing.
Hands should be washed properly after tasks such as using the bathroom and before preparing food. It is interesting to note that the Washington State Food Code requires food workers to wash their hands in the washroom after using the facilities and then in the kitchen before preparing food. One of the hand washes is for “demonstration” because the caterer gets his hands dirty again after touching doorknobs and the like because they were handled by people who didn’t wash them. The second hand wash is the real hand wash required for food safety.
In order to prevent diseases, proper hand washing is important. The “rinse and go” method that is all too common these days is just as ineffective in preventing foodborne bacteria as not washing at all.
How to wash your hands properly
o Use soap and warm, running water.
o Wet your hands before applying the soap
o Apply a generous amount of soap to your hands
o Rub your hands vigorously for 20 seconds (two rounds of “Happy Birthday”)
o Wash all surfaces, including:
o back of hand
between the fingers
o under my nails
o Wash your hands thoroughly
o Dry your hands with a paper towel.
Many people think that a nail brush is necessary for washing hands, so it should be kept near the sink. The problem is that the nail brush gets wet and stays wet. Moisture is a fertile breeding ground for bacteria. Unless you are keeping the nail brush in a disinfectant solution, do not keep a nail brush near the sink. You can also wash under the nails without using a nail brush.
Proper handwashing does not require microbial or antibacterial soap.
From the New York Times:
Studies have shown that more than 70 percent of liquid hand soaps sold are labeled as antibacterial, and Americans are increasingly willing to pay a premium for them. But the truth is, most consumers don’t always get what they think they get. 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.
The researchers found no month-to-month difference in the number of microbes found on the hands of people who used antibacterial or conventional soap. At least four other large studies have produced similar results.
In fact, the only question left is whether the use of antibacterial soaps does more harm than good by creating antibiotic-resistant strains of 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 sanitizers, there is a common misconception that this solution can replace hand washing. While it’s good to have the solution on hand in situations where hand washing isn’t possible, such as when you’re not at home and not near a hand washer, it’s not a substitute for proper hand washing, and it’s not approved by any Environmental Health Agency in America. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that hand sanitiser not be used instead of soap and water, but only as a supplement, in relation to the regulations on appropriate procedures for food services.
Barbara Almanza, an associate professor at Purdue University who teaches safe hygiene practices to workers, recommends using soap and water for proper hand sanitization. Hand sanitizer cannot and does not replace proper cleaning procedures with soap and water.
Proper hand washing is the best defense against the transmission of foodborne illness from person to person or to loved ones for whom you cook.
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