Hand Washing by Food Handlers Prevents Food Borne Illness

Hand washing is so important in preventing food borne illness that there is a Global Hand Washing Day observed every autumn to increase awareness of how important hand washing is in preventing disease. This is especially true in restaurants.

Hand washing prevents disease

Hand washing with soap improves childhood survival and health. About 2.2 million children aged <5 years die each year from diarrheal diseases or pneumonia, the top two killers of young children worldwide.

Hand washing is simple, inexpensive; prevents food borne illness and reduces deaths.

In the food establishment world, the Food and Drug Administration food code calls for using soap and water for 15-20 seconds when washing your hands, before food preparation. Next time you wash your hands before using gloves or before touching food make a mental note of how long

Germs are everywhere. What’s the big deal?

Bacteria and viruses (collectively called germs) get onto hands and make people sick.

Exposure to the world means exposure to germs. Some germs are good. Likely you have heard of good bowel bacteria or skin bacteria that prevent bad germs from causing disease. But many germs can cause disease and you don’t get immune from exposure.

A single gram of human stool—which is about the weight of a paper clip—can contain one trillion germs.

Germs can get onto hands after people use the toilet or handling uncooked, contaminated meats or vegetables. Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to objects, like handrails, counters, or door knobs, and then transferred to yet another person’s hands. If someone coughs or sneezes onto their hands and then touches an object, those germs can be transferred to that object. The unsuspecting person who touches that object then contaminates their own hands.

People often unconsciously and frequently touch their face. The germ they picked up from the contaminated object gets into their skin and enters their body through their eyes, nose and mouth and makes them sick.

Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them. While in the food or drink, the germs can multiply and become even more toxic. It all can lead to illness. Proper hand washing can prevent food borne illness.

Washing hands helps communities stay healthy.

  • Reduces the number of people who get sick by 31%
  • Reduces illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%

In my last blog, I shared data that suggests “23% (of food handlers) did not always wash their hands frequently or adequately.”

Please consider proper hand washing multiple times a day.

If you are a food preparer or food handler this is especially critical as your customer’s health is in your hands.