Handwashing is not a favorite topic of food handlers. It is perceived as a chore that doesn’t need to be carried out. It is one of the most important steps a food handler can take during the daily routine in the restaurant or foodservice establishment. I once had a chef who was determined to be cost-effective and use dishwashing liquid for his hand soap! You wouldn’t think that the type of soap used should make much difference to the cleanliness of hands. However, after the swabs were taken of him washing his
hands with detergent, the laboratory results came back positive for E. coli overgrowth. He didn’t believe me until I showed him the test results! I then had him change to proper liquid soap and re-did the swabs. The tests came back negative for E. coli and coliform which are associated with the gastro-intestinal tract. Handwashing needs to be carried out using hot or warm water and liquid soap. Hands need to be washed for 30 seconds between the palms and finger webs. Fingernail brushes are rarely used but should be stored in a sanitizer if nail brushes are required. A newer technique is to push fingertips into the palms of hands while lathered. The lather can then work into the nail beds removing surface dirt. Hands should be rinsed off under the tap. Taps must be turned off using paper towels or air dryers but not a common use towel. However, if none of the door knobs, microwave handles, cooler door handles or other food contact surfaces are never cleaned and sanitized, hands will immediately become re-contaminated. Food handlers need to be aware of the times during their work day when hands should be washed and make this a habit.