Hand washing within the Food and Catering Industry

Importance of Hand Washing

Food production workers and foodservice personnel must be taught to use correct hand and fingertip washing, by management, in preparation for work. Regulatory authorities do not require the use of a fingernail brush. However, correct use of a fingernail brush to wash hands and fingertips is the best way to assure removal of transient microorganisms.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Wales has published the largest ever nationwide survey of the food hygiene knowledge of workers in the catering industry.The survey of over 1,000 workers and managers in small independent catering businesses revealed that more than a third of staffs (39%) are neglecting to wash their hands after visits to the lavatory whilst at work. The research also demonstrated that half of all those interviewed (53%) did not appear to wash their hands before preparing food

While hand washing is a simple and easy task, studies have indicated that personnel in both health care and foodservice industries have incorrect hand washing habits. Sixty percent of foodservice personnel in one study were reported not to wash their hands as required by these types of positions. The food handler is one link in the complex multiphase process of contaminated food - infection - enteric disease.

Clearly, the food preparation industry has so many areas of possible contamination and there are an enormous variety of infections possible from the types of food handled from raw meats, vegetables, pastries, eggs, milk, and pre-prepared / cook-chill manufacture but the principals are a constant – that being, without good hygiene and hand washing practices, the risks are potentially enormous. 

Peter Snyder, Ph.D.
“Due to a lack of adequate hand washing by individuals who prepare, process and handle food in the retail food system, food borne illness due to fecal-oral transfer continues to be a problem.”

Differences in Hand Microflora of Food Workers and Non-food Workers
The type and number of microorganisms found on hands are also a function of the work environment. The table below contains a list of the types of bacteria found and differences in populations on the hands of food workers and non-food workers.  

Microbial Populations of Pre-washed Workers Hands in
Food and Non-food Industries

 Industry

 Sample

 Bacteria

Reading

% of workers hands with:

Food Industry

Number of Persons

Total No. Bacteria 
(log10)

Entero-bacteriaceae
(log10)

Salmonella

E. coli

S. aureus

Chicken Slaughterhouse

14

6.20

3.53

36

86

100

Cattle Slaughterhouse

20

7.30

3.90

5

100

65

Pig Slaughterhouse

20

6.78

3.38

30

95

95

Egg Products I

20

6.28

3.59

25

60

55

Egg Products II

20

5.81

2.08

0

30

70

Fish

19

6.28

2.62

0

15

45

Dairy Plant

26

5.81

1.98

0

19

54

Deep-Frozen Foods

18

6.28

2.49

0

50

50

Dried Vegetables

14

5.97

2.34

0

7

29

Biscuit Factory

28

6.26

2.34

0

11

46

Chocolate Factory

28

5.63

1.76

0

4

29

Non-Food Industries

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wool Factory

15

5.31

2.06

0

80

53

Glass Factory

14

5.95

1.74

0

0

64

Can Factory

15

5.68

1.14

0

0

60

* Adapted from deWit, J. C. 1985.

Body piercing, jewelry, clothing, badges, foot-ware, etc are all potential carriers of infection, so every precaution must be taken, hand washing still remains at the top of most priorities for a dramatic reduction in cross contamination.

Cross-contamination is an important source of infections and is preventable by effective hand decontamination. Although the importance of hand hygiene has been known for decades, infection rates have remained high due to poor compliance with hand washing.

So what can we do about it?

We all believe that we know how to wash our hands, and what could be simpler.

A simple trial using the DaRo UV Systems manufactured Hand Inspection Cabinet will easily demonstrate that few of us understand how to adequately perform this simple function and yet doing it correctly will protect us all significantly.

A simple procedure of applying GlitterBug to our hands, washing and then placing the hands into the Hand Inspection Cabinet will show immediately all of the areas where contamination is still present. It is not sufficient to simply wash our hands and arms; it is more a matter of performing the task properly.

As contamination will also be found on door handles, other equipment, walls etc, for training purposes, our hand held equipment with powders will also demonstrate areas of contamination / cross contamination/ infection the means of transmission, and where cleaning staff require further training.