20 Aug 2019 A ‘handy’ guide to food hygiene washing standards
There are good reasons why policies and procedures linked to handwashing are so central to food hygiene.
Did you know, that your ‘mitts’ could be harbouring as many as 3200 bacteria, drawn from around 150 different species? [https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/760097/bacteria-germs-on-hands] Yuk, but before you take offence at that, this is research from the average human hand, not someone particularly unhygienic!
It makes sense really, as our hands are exposed to a wide range of opportunities to pick up germs around the clock. Setting aside visits to the toilet, the simple act of touching doors, chair backs and itching your own nose can lead to the transfer of pollutants that are invisible to the naked eye.
Do you have a habit of brushing your hair off your face, leaning on worktops or putting your hands in your pockets? Yet more ways in which previously scrupulously clean hands pick up new ‘passengers’.
What this means for Food Safety
Clearly, most of this bacterium is harmless to us. The problem comes when we pass some particular strains on to others, such as inadvertently adding them to food! A type of bacteria that’s no problem on your skin could be one that creates havoc when digested, particularly when children or vulnerable older people are involved.
This is why handwashing is not only actively supported in many workplaces, it’s enforced by techniques and products that are extremely thorough.
The technique used is crucial
As bacteria is so prolific on the skin of your hands it’s important to tangibly get to grips with it before touching ingredients, or food prep tools, equipment and surfaces.
Not least as not everyone fully understands where their hands are! Have you ever seen someone in a public bathroom giving their fingers a cursory rinse under the tap?
Hand washing in food safety terms is the entire skin surface, including palms and the back of the hand of course. It also means getting well and truly between fingers – the cracks and crevices where bacteria tend to lurk and multiply.
There are food safety consultants and online food safety training modules to help companies to illustrate – and enforce – the correct way to wash hands.
Why repeated hand washing is needed
One of the biggest myths about those thousands of germs on your hand, is that they die off quickly, or that one good hand wash sets you up for a few hours of work.
Bacteria are remarkably resilient and can resist your efforts to wash them away, lingering for a long time. This makes it vital to not only wash thoroughly (with the correct products) before food preparation but to also start the whole process again very regularly!