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Handwashing, The Most Important Step For Food Safety – Food Safety For The ‘Average Joe’ – Article 2

Handwashing, the most vital step for food safety.
Food safety for the ‘Average Joe’-Article Two

In 2002, a Food Standards agency conducted a survey of 1,000 food workers. Of these 39%…390 of those surveyed…did not wash their hands after using the toilet. 53% didn’t wash their hands before preparing food. Broken down even further, it has been determined (based on this as well as other surveys) that half of all men and a quarter of all women make a regular practice of not washing their hands after visiting restroom facilities.

Some of the reasons people give for not washing their hands properly or at all are 1) Lack of time/too busy (54%) 2) Forgetting/having to remember (18%) and 3) Distractions with other/competing tasks.

Handwashing is the simplest–yet the most neglected–disease prevention practice. Germs can survive for up to three hours on hands. Thorough handwashing with hot, soapy water prevents bacteria from transferring from hands to foods. Some of the most hazardous foodborne illnesses can be passed through improper handwashing. E.coli 0157:H7, the deadly foodborne disease that killed a number of people in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s, is one that can be passed from person to person by improper or neglected handwashing.

Hands must be properly washed after tasks like using the restroom and before preparing food. It is fascinating to note that Washington State’s Food Code mandates that food workers wash their hands in the restroom after using the facilities and then again inside the kitchen before preparing food. One handwashing is for “show”, because the food worker will re-contaminate his/her hands after touching doorknobs and such because they were handled by people who had not washed. The second handwashing is the real handwashing required for food safety.

It is vital that hands be washed properly to prevent illness. The “rinse and go” method that is all too common nowadays is as ineffective for preventing foodborne bacteria as not washing at all.

How To Wash Your Hands Properly
• Use soap and warm, running water.
• Make sure to wet hands before applying the soap
• Apply a liberal amount of soap to hands
• Rub your hands vigorously for 20 seconds (two rounds of “Pleased Birthday”)
• Wash all surfaces, including:
o backs of hands
o wrists
o between fingers
o tips of fingers
o under fingernails
o Rinse your hands well
• Dry your hands with a paper towel.

Many people reckon that a nail brush is necessary for handwashing, and will keep one near the sink for that reason. The problem is that the nail brush becomes moist and stays that way. Moisture is a fertile breeding ground for bacteria. Unless your nail brush is kept in a sanitizer solution, do not keep a nail brush at the sink. It is possible to wash under the fingernails without using a nail brush.

Microbial or antibacterial soaps are not necessary for proper handwashing.
From the New York Times:
Studies show that more than 70 percent of liquid hand soaps sold are now labeled antibacterial, and Americans seem increasingly willing to pay a premium for them. But the truth is that most consumers may not always be getting what they reckon they are. Over the years, studies have repeatedly shown that antibacterial soaps are no better than plain ancient soap and water.

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

Month after month, the researchers found no difference in the number of microbes that turned up on the hands of people who used either antibacterial soap or regular soap. At least four other large studies have had similar findings.

In fact, the only question now may be whether using antibacterial soaps can cause more harm than excellent by making 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 sanitizers, the misconception abounds that this solution can replace handwashing. While it is excellent to keep the solution on hand for situations where hands cannot be washed, such as when you are not at home and are not near handwashing facilities, it does not replace proper handwashing, nor is it approved as a substitution by any Environmental Health Agency in America. The Food and Drug Administration, in regards to regulations concerning proper procedures for food services, recommends that hand sanitizers not be used in place of soap and water but only as an adjunct.

Barbara Almanza, an associate professor at Purdue University who teaches safe sanitation practices to workers, recommends that to properly sanitize the hands, soap and water should be used. A hand sanitizer can not and should not take the place of proper cleansing procedures with soap and water.

The very best defense against foodborne illness being passed from person to person or to a loved one who you are cooking for is proper handwashing.

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2 Comments on “Handwashing, The Most Important Step For Food Safety – Food Safety For The ‘Average Joe’ – Article 2”

  • Lisa wrote on 14 March, 2010, 13:53

    Thanks for this very informative article. My daughter has the flu at the moment and I don’t want to get it so will be washing my hands per your recommendations so I lessen my risk of contracting it.

  • AnaLiza wrote on 11 June, 2010, 3:41

    As vegetarian, I try to take care about food quality, something essential to me. And washing, is part of quality when I’m going to eating something. Vegetables have a excellent amount of baterial, so washing food, whashing hands and so on. Fantastic article!

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