Good hand hygiene requires a plan

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From preparation to plate to the patron’s mouth, numerous sets of hands may touch the food in a restaurant setting. But if those hands aren’t clean, your customers are at risk for foodborne illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year roughly one in six Americans (or 48 million people) becomes sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. The spread of germs from the hands of food workers to food is a common cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants. According to the CDC, it accounts for 89 percent of outbreaks in which food was contaminated by food workers.

In addition to their effect on an individual’s health, foodborne illnesses also have an economic impact on a business. An individual operation might experience thousands of dollars in lost revenue, lawsuits or fines, a damaged reputation or even closure. For example, a restaurant in Hawaii was fined $11,000 in 2014 for conditions known to cause foodborne illnesses, including intentionally removing its food safety placard. Food establishment inspections may not only influence the food safety rating shown on placards but also leave traces on reports being available online to the public for years to come.

Appropriate hand-washing practices can reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Employee personal hygiene, with an emphasis on hand washing, is a prominent focus of regulations. However, low compliance and increased risk can occur due to:

• unclear and nonprescriptive guidelines

• the multitude of product choices

• cultural diversity among employees

• competing priorities

• utilization of temporary workers

To meet the daily hand hygiene challenge of foodborne illness prevention, restaurants should adopt a skin care regimen.

Begin with a code of conduct

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code states that employees must wash their hands and exposed arms in the following situations:

• Immediately before working in food preparation where exposed food, clean equipment and utensils or unwrapped single-service or single-use articles are present.

• After touching bare human body parts other than clean hands or arms.

• After using toilet facilities.

• After caring for or handling any service or aquatic animals.

• After coughing, sneezing, using a handkerchief or tissue, using tobacco, eating or drinking.

• After handling soiled equipment or utensils.

• During food preparation to prevent cross-contamination when changing tasks.

• When switching from working with raw to ready-to-eat food.

• Before donning gloves for working with food.

• After any activity that contaminates the hands.

About the soap: It should be dye-free, fragrance-free and mild to the skin. Foam soaps can help save water and improve hand-washing compliance. Using NSF-certified soaps helps to comply with the requirements for soaps used in food handling establishments. Standard hand soaps fall in category E1, while antibacterial hand soaps fall in category E2. In many cases an E1-rated hand cleanser will be sufficient, but an E2-rated antibacterial hand wash can be recommended when handling sensitive foodstuffs such as poultry and seafood.

Article from Restaurant Hospitality


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