The importance of effective handwashing

effective hand washing

Washing Your Hands Effectively

It is absolutely imperative that food handlers wash their hand frequently throughout the working day. This is one of the most simple, yet absolutely essential principles of food safety. There can potentially be millions of bacteria on your hands at any one time! Bacteria are measured in micrometres (µm). There are 1000 µm in 1 millimetre (mm). The average spherical bacterium measures on average around 1µm in diameter. Therefore, bacteria are far too small to be seen by the naked eye. Some of these are harmful (pathogens) and when they are transferred onto food, they can cause food poisoning.

Bacteria, however, can be eliminated with a simple an effective hand washing technique:

  1. Wet hands thoroughly
  2. Use liquid soap
  3. Rub hands vigorously – especially the nails, fingertips and thumbs (it is the vigour in handwashing which is effective (this should take at least 40 seconds – 1 minute)
  4. Rinse hands thoroughly
  5. Dry hands completely using a paper towel
  6. Turn the tap off using the paper towel!
  7. Bin the towel!

Handwashing:  – when to wash your hands – keeping your hands clean and the food safe!

Before entering a food room or handling food

After using the toilet

After taking a break, eating or smoking

After handling raw food

Before handling cooked, ready-to-eat food

After handling a dressing or changing a waterproof plaster

After handling boxes and food packaging

After handling waste or refuse

After cleaning or using cleaning chemicals

After coughing, sneezing or touching any other part of your body

After dealing with someone who is ill

After handling known allergens

Whilst such an obvious point to make, nevertheless, it is a very important one: Get into the habit of washing your hands correctly, often and always. Knowledge of hand hygiene and handwashing per se, without practice, is useless and at worst, dangerous! It’s a sad fact that many cases of food poisoning could have been avoided if the food handlers involved would have simply washed their hands!