Hands are incredibly useful tools in the kitchen. However, every time we touch something, we can get germs on our hands or transfer them. Our hands are the most common carriers for germs and the most common route of travel for infection. That is why practicing hand hygiene is one of the most important and essential ways to prevent food poisoning.
Hand Hygiene And The Skin's Layers
Hand hygiene is divided into three varying degrees according to how thoroughly it kills germs. These three levels are simply called, "Hand Washing", "Hygienic Hand Hygiene", and "Surgical Hand Antisepsis". Levels of hand hygiene can be understood by visualizing the layer from which bacteria and pathogens are removed.
Hand Washing: To wash away dirt and some transient flora*. Hygienic Hand Hygiene: To stop the risk of contamination by removing all transient flora. Surgical Hand Antisepsis: Removes transient flora and most resident flora** while maintain low microbial activity. * Microorganisms that colonize the superficial layers of the skin. ** The variety of nonpathogenic microorganism that usually are permanently colonizing various parts of the body.
Hand Washing For Food Handlers
The hand washing conducted by food handlers is "hygienic hand hygiene" and aims to eliminate transient flora with the procedure of 1) washing, 2) drying and 3) sanitizing.
The effects of hygienic hand hygiene can be seen through the experiment below. Each handprint was taken at various stages of hand hygiene after contaminating E.coli to hands. Hygienic hand hygiene, which is the combination of hand washing with soap and sanitizing with alcohol-based sanitizer, showed no colonies after washing and sanitizing.
Frequently Missed Areas During Hand Washing
The simple act of hand washing does not guarantee all areas of the hands will be equally cleaned. Areas such as the fingertips, thumbs and in between the fingers are frequently missed during a routine hand wash. This can leave the hands contaminated and possibly weaken the effect of hand sanitizer, especially the fingertips which are the most commonly used parts of the hand. Extra care must be taken to wash the entire hand thoroughly.The image below shows the most frequently missed parts.
Hygienic Hand Washing Method
Now that the importance of hand hygiene and frequently missed areas during hand washing are clear, let's take a look at the proper hygienic hand washing method.
To achieve the full effect of alcohol hand sanitizer, make sure hands have been thoroughly dried. Water can dilute sanitizer and prevent it from contacting the skin.
When To Practice Hygienic Hand Washing
According to the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), food handlers must clean their hands and exposed portions of their arms immediately before engaging in food preparation including working with exposed food, clean equipment and utensils, and unwrapped single-service and single-use articles and at the following times.
• After touching bare human body parts other than clean hands and clean, exposed portions of arms
• After using the toilet
• After caring for or handling service animals or aquatic animals
• After coughing, sneezing, using a handkerchief or disposable tissue, using tobacco, eating, or drinking
• After handling soiled equipment or utensils
• During food preparation, as often as necessary to remove soil and contamination and to prevent cross contamination when changing tasks
• When switching between working with raw food and working with ready-to-eat food
• Before donning gloves to initiate a task that involves working with food
• After engaging in other activities that contaminate the hands