(Editor’s Note: This is an online-only article attributed to the June/July 2017 issue.)
A stringent health and safety training plan with a focus on hand hygiene is more than likely in place wherever you work or do business within the food industry. However, over time bad habits can develop and without the proper refresher training this can cause implications for businesses.
Whether working in a restaurant kitchen, behind a counter serving food to waiting customers, or even in a warehouse or factory environment that deals with food directly, it’s imperative to understand the importance of hand hygiene and note what practices are incorrect.
Here are some misdemeanors that many who work with food may be guilty of:
- Not washing or sanitizing hands before coming into contact with food;
- Handling food with bare hands in a retail environment;
- Dealing with cleaning chemicals and not washing hands before handling food again;
- Not wearing the correct gloves when handling food;
- Continuing to wear protective gloves while handling money and food;
- Using latex gloves when handling food as this can cause adverse allergic reactions for staff and customers;
- Handling raw meat and then other foods without washing hands or changing gloves;
- Not cleaning under fingernails before handling food;
- Handling cleaning cloths while wearing protective gloves; and
- Using an ineffective handwashing method—Health and Safety Executive recommends washing hands with warm running water and soap to reduce bacteria and contamination.
Avoid Poor Hand Hygiene
Provide easy to access washing stations. Clean, easy to access sinks are a good way of maintaining good hand hygiene. Ensure that there is always soap dispensed via a pump to minimize cross-contamination and clean paper towels are available to dry hands—a towel can dirty quickly and require laundering. If your business does not have access to hot running water—you may operate from a mobile kiosk, for example—hand sanitizing gel is a good option.
Signage. Signage is an excellent tool in every workplace, to remind yourself or employees to keep hands clean and also when to consider hand hygiene. Have these signs clearly visible at wash stations as well as where food is prepared and served.
Training. Updated training is also a good idea, and also ensures you can tick that box on the company risk assessment when it rolls round. You can conduct this training yourself in house or make it part of your regular updated staff training alongside first aid requirements and site safety.
Protective gloves. Gloves are also a good way of ensuring hand hygiene. While hands should always be washed before handling food, even if gloves are being worn, they can act as an effective barrier against germs and cross-contamination.
It’s best to avoid latex gloves, to minimize the risk of allergic reactions in staff and also customers who come into contact with food that has come into contact with the latex protein. Nitrile gloves are an ideal option, not only are they highly resistant to tears and puncturing but they can be worn by everyone.
Ensure gloves are available in a variety of sizes to accommodate all hands and teach those using them to dispose of them when they start to show signs of wear and tear or when moving on to a new food type.
It’s also a good idea to note that the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizing gels can have an effect on some glove types, increasing their risk of tearing and disintegration and so they may not last as long.
Hygiene Affects Business
In the latest Food Standard Agency survey conducted this year, it uncovered that 72 percent of people felt the cleanliness of an eating establishment was important in determining whether they ate there or purchased from it.