People. It’s the title of the iconic song that legendary Barbra Streisand made famous starring in “Funny Girl,” the Broadway musical and the movie.
And it’s the number one consideration in food sanitation.
So says food scientist Ronald Schmidt, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and active industry trainer in food safety and hygiene.
“Regardless of the type of processing or food handling operation, it is people who set the rules, follow the rules, and also break the rules of sanitation,” Dr. Schmidt points out. “A sanitation program is as good as the attitude, willingness, and efforts of people. That is why the most important aspect of a sanitation program is ongoing personnel training.”
It is essential that the full meaning of sanitation and its wide economic scope be accepted by everyone concerned in the food system, including management, Dr. Schmidt emphasizes.
“Personnel training should include appropriate sanitation principles and food handling practices, manufacturing controls, and personal hygiene practices,” he elaborates. “Personnel training should instill and nurture an understanding of the desirable hygienic features of food handling facilities, environment, and equipment, the processing steps and technologies for each product manufactured or handled and where potential problems exist, and create a keen desire to satisfy and guard the consumers’ interests.”
To that end, the SaniTimer handwashing timer is proving to be an effective tool for enhancing hand hygiene protocols in commercial food facilities, according to Charles Abraham, marketing director, SaniTimer, Fort Worth, Texas. “Our clients represent fast food chains, restaurant chains, and food processing facilities including dairy, meat, poultry, and nuts,” Abraham says.
“Installed quickly and easily on handwashing faucets throughout food establishments, the patented SaniTimer offers employees a visual and audio aid for assistance in meeting the CDC time requirement of a minimum of 20 seconds for handwashing each time,” Abraham points out. “SaniTimer raises compliance rates for hand hygiene up to 90 percent.”
Introduced commercially in 2016, the SaniTimer is slated to be included in a new study gearing up at Purdue University on changing behaviors to enhance food safety, Abraham notes.
Abraham says Elite Spice, an industrial seasonings manufacturer, was one of the companies selected to use the SaniTimers on a trial basis starting in 2015.
“We installed SaniTimers on all the handwashing sinks at the entrances to our production areas,” says George Meyer, manager of the 160,000-square-foot Elite Spice headquarters, Jessup, Md. “Before we had SaniTimers, it was a challenge to train our employees to wash their hands for the correct amount of time each time. And it was difficult to document that training. Even with instructing employees to sing recommended songs like ‘Happy Birthday,’ handwashing times were not consistent.”
Meyer reports that SaniTimers have taken all the guess work out of handwashing time for his entire team. “SaniTimers are simple and straightforward to use,” he relates. “You turn on the water, you see the timer right in front of you, you wash your hands. When the timer goes off, you know you have been washing for 20 seconds and you turn the water off. Now with this tool our employees know exactly how long to wash their hands every time, so consistency has improved dramatically. Using SaniTimers has been incorporated into our handwashing training protocol.”
“We are on a mission to correct the misstep of improper hand hygiene in food safety, while raising food safety standards along the way,” Abraham says. “We have found that providing a tool for food safety professionals to use in accomplishing this goal is getting all components of the industry close to constant compliance standards for hand hygiene. We are pushing the FDA review board to require handwashing timers as a tool to ensure the current hand hygiene code that requires employees to wash for a minimum of 20 seconds is complied with.”