Importance of Hand Hygiene in the Food Industry

Hand hygiene is vital for food handlers in the food processing, hospitality and food service sectors, and is a legal requirement under the Food Safety Standards (Food Standards Australia New Zealand 2018). If hand washing practices are not effectively implemented, harmful germs can be transmitted to food contact surfaces and from food handling, resulting in possible contamination.

With the World Health Organisation (2006) identifying over 200 diseases that can be transmitted through food, it’s important to minimise the risk of foodborne illnesses. Hand washing facilities should be conveniently located in food preparation areas and bathrooms. As reported by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (2018), food handlers must take care in their health and hygiene and report symptoms of food poisoning, such as stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhoea, to their supervisor. Immediate action and appropriate conduct by all staff in the food environment is the best strategy in preventing food contamination.

Implementing Food Safety and Hand Hygiene Practices

Routine hand washing is crucial for food handlers, food production and processing employees. According to Roberts (2015), food safety depends significantly on the hands-on approach and accountability of staff towards hand cleanliness by upholding a rigorous hand hygiene regime.

The World Health Organisation (2006), Food Standards Australia New Zealand (2018) and NSW Food Authority (2018), all recommend that hand hygiene should occur in the following situations as best practice:

Wash hands before and during food prep stages

1. Before commencing food handling and during different stages of food preparation, for example switching from handling raw meat to working with cooked food. To help prevent cross contamination, use separate equipment and utensils when preparing and storing raw food and cooked food.

Wash hands before and after glove use

2. Before donning and after doffing certified food-safe disposable gloves. Ensure hands are properly cleaned and dried.

Wash after comfort breaks and using toilet

3. After taking comfort breaks, such as eating lunch or using the toilet facilities, it is vital to wash and sanitise hands to prevent contamination with faecal bacteria.

Wash after sneezing coughing

4. After respiratory behaviours such as coughing or sneezing, in addition to touching any area of your face or head, such as using a tissue to blow your nose. It is important to cover your face when sneezing or coughing, to reduce the spread of germs.

Wash hands after cleaning activities

5. After cleaning activities, such as handling food waste or cleaning chemicals.

Hand Hygiene Technique for Food Industry Professionals

Food industry professionals are expected to perform proper hand washing procedures to ensure that their hands are clean and safe to use for food handling, preparation, production, and serving.

The NSW Food Authority (2018) has created the following step-by-step process for effective hand washing:

1. Wash hands methodically with plain or anti-microbial soap and clean, warm, running water.

Soap hands together

2. Soap hands together, lathering well to cover all surfaces (back hand, between fingers, under nails).

Scrub for 20 secs

3. Scrub hands together for a minimum of 20 seconds.

Cleanse hands under water

4. Cleanse hands under clean, warm, running water until all the soap is removed.

Dry hands thoroughly

5. Dry hands thoroughly with a clean single-use paper towel or under a hand dryer if available.

References

  1. Food Standards Australia New Zealand 2018, Health and hygiene of food business’, viewed 11 May 2018, <http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/safety/faqsafety/pages/foodsafetyfactsheets/healthandhygieneresp102.aspx>
  2. Food Standards Australia New Zealand 2018, Health and hygiene for food handlers, viewed 11 May 2018, <http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/safety/faqsafety/pages/foodsafetyfactsheets/charitiesandcommunityorganisationsfactsheets/healthandhygieneforf1482.aspx>
  3. NSW Food Authority 2018, Hand Washing in Food Businesses, viewed 11 May 2018, <http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/_Documents/retailfactsheets/hand_washing_food_businesses.pdf>
  4. Pfuntner, A 2011, ‘Proper Hand Washing: A Vital Food Safety Step’, FoodSafety Magazine, viewed 14 May 2018, <https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/februarymarch-2011/proper-hand-washing-a-vital-food-safety-step/>
  5. Roberts, M 2015, ‘Enforcing Hand Hygiene’, Food Quality & Safety, 13 April, viewed 14 May 2018, <http://www.foodqualityandsafety.com/article/enforcing-hand-hygiene/>
  6. World Health Organization Dept. of Food Safety, Zoonoses and Foodborne Diseases 2006, Five Keys to Safer Food Manual, WHO Press, Geneva