The Importance Of Good Hand Washing By Food Handlers


Time after time, the TV will be full of stories about cases of food poisoning and illness that have been traced back to the source – a foodhandler. Good handwashing is vital to the protection of the health of the general public as well as the restaurant employees. One infected food handler who fails to wash his hands thoroughly can infect untold numbers of innocent people. The Federal Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that more than 76 million cases, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths occur annually from food borne illness. Infected restaurant employees were identified as a contributing factor in more than 65% of these cases of food born illness. These statistics come from a 2002-2003 study of outbreaks in US restaurants. Pathogens (disease causing germs) can be transmitted from an infected employee through food directly to the consumer. It is quite obvious that employee health and good personal hygiene is critical in protecting consumers and individual businesses. Food that is handled by improperly washed hands or hands that simply were not washed at all can be the cause of many different illnesses. It is essential that food handlers use good hand washing techniques to ensure that the food they serve is safe. If employees use the toilet and do not wash their hands afterward, they can be contaminated by tiny particles of fecal material, which may carry infectious organisms. Food service establishments can help prevent food borne illnesses that are associated with infected employees. All employees should be trained to:

  • Learn about food borne illness and gain an understanding of how it is spread from one infected person to another.
  • Know that they must not work with or handle food when they are ill.
  • Practice good hand washing techniques - always
  • Never touch ready-to-eat food with their bare hands.

What Is The Manager’s Responsibility? Managers and employees share the responsibility of learning about food borne illness and understanding their role in its prevention. Food handled by dirty hands can spread illnesses and the simple practice of good handwashing can prevent this. Effective hygiene practices must be followed by all employees to prevent the transmission of bacteria and viruses to food. Here are a few things a manager can do to help prevent food borne illness:

  • Managers can insure that there is an adequate number of soap dispensers in strategic spots and that they are operational and kept filled.
  • All employees must be trained in proper handwashing techniques.
  • Posters showing the importance of handwashing, as well as how to do it, should be placed in work areas and bathrooms.
  • There should be frequent brief training sessions on handwashing techniques.
  • An employee should be assigned the task of checking all soap dispensers to ensure that there is an adequate amount of soap available.
  • Employees would benefit from learning more about their role in disease prevention and some basics about food borne illnesses.

Managers can also check sources for soap dispensers to select the ones that are easy to use and maintain. One supplier, at, has a variety of user-friendly dispensers, which have different soap containing capacities. One dispenser holds 800 ml. and uses bag-in-box refills. Another uses 4 lb. and 4.5 lb. Cartridges while the Flat Top Gallon Dispenser can be attached to the wall and holds 1 gallon of soap. There are smaller models of 30 oz. Capacity that are ideal for restrooms. With the availability of products, there is no reason for any type of food service to be poorly equipped for handwashing!

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