Hand washing is the single most important action food handlers can take to prevent Foodborne illness. Reports indicate that employee hand washing is at a dangerously low level in restaurants, grocery stores, institutional operations and health care centres. According to estimates, 40% of Foodborne illness outbreaks are the result of poor hand washing. That is why it is imperative for all food preparation professional to have undertaken relevant Food Safety Courses Online so that they understand how to prevent Foodborne illnesses and physical contamination of food.

A recent case of a Hepatitis A outbreak was traced to a food cart in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, United States. A total of 16 people contracted Hepatitis A from this outbreak. The cause was inadequate hand washing. It bankrupted the business and made 16 people very sick. Another outbreak in Denver, Colorado, involved a bakery that made cinnamon rolls. The Baker drizzled frosting on the rolls with dirty hands. More than 5000 people became ill. These cases demonstrate that large numbers of people can become ill from just one food handler who has made a serious mistake.

Hands should be washed:

• Before and during food preparation.

• After using the restroom.

• After touching the hair and face.

• After eating and smoking.

• After licking fingers or after food sampling with hands.

• After handling raw food.

• After sneezing or coughing.

• After handling money.

• After handling soiled dishes, food wastes, garbage or soiled equipment.

• Immediately before engaging in food preparation.

• After any activity that would contaminate the hands.

Hand washing should be required for all food handlers, including servers, since they clear tables and handle dirty dishes.

Proper Hand Washing Techniques

To practice proper infection control, make sure that all food handlers have undertaken relevant Food Safety Courses Online and observe the following hand washing techniques:

Hand sinks should be well stocked with soap and paper towels. First, wet hands with warm running water, then coat the hands with a germicidal soap or bar soap, and using the warm water, build up later on the hands and forearms. A thorough hand washing takes about 20 seconds. It is the abrasive action of rubbing hands with the soapy lather that removes dirt for the skin crevices. Special attention should be given to the areas underneath the fingernails and between the fingers. A sanitising hand dip does not eliminate all harmful bacteria. It is mainly effective on the skin surface and does not penetrate the multiple layers of dirt or bacteria.

If hand sanitisers are used, wash hands first, then use a sanitiser. Use a hand sink for hand washing, do not use a preparation sink for hand washing. Use single service disposable paper towels. Reusable towels, such as those used in petrol stations pose a serious threat. These reusable towels are never cleaned and sanitised thoroughly enough to eliminate harmful bacteria. Avoid the use of blow dryers. They are not effective in drying hands and may spread bacteria. Use disposable paper towels to thoroughly dry hands and turn off the faucets. Use the same towel to open the restroom or other exit doors so that you do not touch recontaminate your hands by touching the door knob or handle.

Good personal hygiene and careful hand washing after using the restroom could have prevented the outbreaks described above. Personal hygiene is one important area of food safety that everyone can control. Therefore, ensure your staff members are aware of their responsibilities by ensuring they have undertaken a Food Safety Courses Online and diligently follow it’s instructions.