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Explore This IssueOctober/November 2013
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Handwashing Remains Key
While computer and software tools to identify and monitor problem areas and new types of conveyors and other equipment with fewer areas for microorganisms are among the innovative techniques food processors are focusing on to improve sanitation, at times it’s the least common denominator that remains a sticking point, in this case, compliance with proper handwashing methods. Cascades Tissue Group of Waterford, N.Y., is among the companies working to get employees’ hands cleaner both for their own sake and for the safety of the food and equipment they’re handling.
Cascades came up with antibacterial towels that don’t require any changes in routine. “Five seconds with the towels is better than washing hands and air drying,” says Andrew Sheridan, product manager, quoting a University of Westminster study that found air dryers can increase the bacteria count on hands up to 254 percent, whereas paper towels reduced it up to 75 percent.
He says if someone doesn’t wash their hands fully, the dry paper towels, impregnated with benzalkonium chloride, will kill bacteria.
The towels fit in traditional multifold or universal roll containers already in restrooms and near food machines, he says. They also come in a popup box. They run about 15 percent to 20 percent more costly than standard towels, but there are savings when bacteria is kept from spreading to cause a product recall or employee illness.
These towels are only for hands, not surfaces. Sheridan says the antibacterial action in the towels has shown a persistent effect, continuing to kill bacteria even after a person has dried their hands with them. He adds that his company will look for ways to improve the towels, such as adding other ingredients to kill other types of microorganisms. For more information on hand hygiene, see “Handwashing’s Risks and Rewards.”
Valigra is a writer based in Harrison, Maine. Reach her at email@example.com.