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When And Why You Should Wash Your Hands

When you are working in food preparation, whether in a commercial kitchen or at home, it is absolutely vital that you make sure you wash your hands whenever needed.

Washing is a basic principle of good hygiene and it is covered in full in any food hygiene training. Cleaning your hands is vital if you want to maintain a safe, food-friendly environment, and if you are not clean then you are risking the health of anyone who eats your food. Bacteria will spread easily from physical contact, and in a kitchen environment that means it will spread into the food you prepare. When you wash your hands, you are reducing the likelihood that any bacteria present will transfer to a second location.

Unfortunately much of the food that we handle regularly can contain a range of unpleasant passengers, such as salmonella and campylobacter, which will probably make people quite sick if they are ingested. If you handle these foods or another source of harmful bacteria, everything you touch could become a source of contamination.

Certain key events should trigger hand washing before handling food again. These include

  • Before you start work and before returning from a break at work
  • Before you handle any cooked meats or other ready-to-eat food
  • After you have handled a rubbish bin or waste products.
  • After handling raw meat or unwashed ingredients such as vegetables
  • After a visit to the toilet
  • After eating, drinking or smoking
  • If you blow your nose, cough or sneeze into your hands even if holding a tissue, or if you touch your eyes or nose

This is not an exclusive list, and it is important that you use some common sense and, if in doubt, wash.

Most of us know that we need to wash our hands after we go to the toilet and this is because we have just been exposed to something that is known to contain a high level of risk. Despite knowing this, however, an astounding 10 per cent of us will leave the toilet without washing, according to a recent survey.

You need to think beyond the obvious sometimes when it comes to food hygiene. One thing you see quite regularly is the handling of money followed by the immediate handling of food. Research by Queen Mary University of London found that 6 per cent of notes tested showed a very significant level of faecal contamination. Another area of concern is mobile device use. We are all used to using our mobile and it seems a fairly innocent thing to do, but Michigan State University found that 1 in 6 mobiles were also contaminated with faecal matter.

Washing your hands doesn’t take long, and providing it is done at the right time and done properly, it will significantly reduce the danger food poisoning. No wonder it is a part of food hygiene training.

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