Personal hygiene is an important element of food safety, and handwashing might just be the most essential step. Handwashing prevents you from getting sick, and also from passing on sickness, such as a foodborne illness.
Even though handwashing is an important step in preventing the spread of foodborne illnesses, a study by the USDA found that 97% of consumers are not properly washing their hands in the kitchen, which in turn lead to bacteria being transferred to other surfaces in the kitchen through cross-contamination.
As a food handler, you need to know when and how to properly wash your hands in order to prevent cross-contamination. Follow these steps to ensure you are correctly washing your hands and removing harmful bacteria that could harm yourself or your customers.
When Should I Wash My Hands?
You should be washing your hands before, after, and during handling food. You should also wash your hands after tasks such as:
- After using the bathroom
- After blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing
- After taking out the garbage
- After handling raw foods
- After a break
- After handling money or receipts
- After touching clothing, hair, or face
Use your best judgement. If you think you should wash your hands after completing a certain task but are unsure, you probably should just wash them.
How Should I Wash My Hands?
The CDC recommends to wash your hands using the following steps:
- Wet your hands with clean water and apply soap
- Lather the soap
- Scrub your hands for 20 seconds and make sure to get the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails
- Rinse off the soap under clean running water
- Dry your hands with a clean single use towel or hand dryer
What About Hand Sanitizer?
Using soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs on your hands. However, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is acceptable if soap and water are not available, just make sure that the hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol. Just keep in mind that hand sanitizers do not get rid of all germs, and they are not as effective if hands are dirty or greasy.
Learn more about preventing the spread of foodborne illness by completing our Food Handlers training.