hand washing in the kitchen

Hand Washing In The Kitchen. Why Is It So Important?

The second pillar of food safety is the most important in terms of eliminating cross-contamination. Hand washing and clean hands awareness is critical to food safety. Dirty hands is known as one of the two main sources in which bacteria can be introduced into the kitchen environment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that hand washing is the single most important way to prevent the spread of infection.

The other is the source of your business; food.

When should you wash your hands?

Hand washing should take place between tasks such as between:

  • Raw and ready-to-eat food preparation
  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Cleaning tasks
  • Entering and exiting the kitchen
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching garbage
  • And most importantly after using the ablution facilities

 Creating Awareness here is non-negotiable.

One of the biggest causes of food poisoning in the kitchen and at home are hands that are contaminated with harmful bacteria. Kitchen hygiene consultants are mainly concerned with two types of bacteria Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

These bacteria are known as indicator organisms that will alert us to unhygienic practices. This being the case because, E.coli occurs naturally in the human gut and tell us that the possibility of unwashed hands after using the ablution facilities has taken place. S.aureus can occur naturally in the nasal passages, also indicating unhygienic practices. These bacteria can also occur as a result of handling raw materials or on the skin of a person without harm.

In many countries it is a requirement to have regular health checks for food handlers to test for a natural S.aureus carrier and other infectious diseases. This is because regular antibiotic treatment would be needed, because these bacteria are also a heat-stable toxin producing pathogen.

Hence the importance of regular hand washing.

How to wash your hands in a hygienic manner:


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  1. Clear off any excess food or dirt by rinsing under water
  2. Use a liquid hand soap and thoroughly wash your
  3. entire hand and forearm
  4. Rinse under warm water
  5. Dry your hands with paper towel
  6. Dispose of paper towel in a pedal bin
  7. Apply an alcohol-based hand sanitiser

Any kind of soap will get your hands clean, but there are a few special concerns in the food prep environment. Liquid soaps in a pump dispenser work best (that way you don’t have a bar of soap lingering around in a pool of moisture). Also, soaps used for this purpose ought to be very mild to prevent chapping, and without a lot of added ingredients that could end up in the food supply.

Why can’t I just use a hand sanitiser?

For some, washing hands on a frequent basis can seem like a big annoyance. And the convenience of a hand sanitiser can be misleading. Although these hand sanitiser gels may be convenient and appropriate in certain situations, they are not acceptable as the sole use for clean hands.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Raw meats are unusually fatty and have a high bacterial load. This means that you need to physically remove the fat before a sanitiser can be used.
  • Any dirt or silly substance allows bacteria to ‘hide’ on your hands. This is why soap is need first.
  • Another reason why hand sanitisers can’t replace hand washing in food service has to do with the types of germs you’re trying to kill. Alcohol is good at killing the kinds of germs that cause colds and flu,  but the kinds of germs that make people sick in restaurants are the type that thrive in fatty, sugary environments. They are usually transmitted by the faecal-to-oral route, and hand washing is still the only proven method to kill these bacteria.

The best method is to use a hand soap and sanitiser together to help eliminate any possible chance of cross contamination.

For information of the food safety pillars check the ebook on Amazon

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