The safety of the food you serve is in your hands....literally! Contaminated hands lead to contaminated food. That is why handwashing is one of the most important actions a foodhandler can take to prevent the occurrence of foodborne illness.

Many foodborne-illness outbreaks have been linked to foodhandlers who failed to practice proper handwashing. Staphylococcus aureus(Staph), a toxin producing bacteria present in the nasal passages and on the skin of many healthy adults, may be readily transferred to food from employees that fail to practice proper handwashing. Viruses, such as Hepatitis A, may also be transferred to food from the hands of an infected employee who fails to properly wash his/her hands after using the toilet.

By simply practicing proper and frequent handwashing, foodhandlers can prevent the contamination of food and the spread of disease.
Handwashing Procedure
Handwashing seems like such a basic task, but many foodhandlers fail to do it properly. To be an effective barrier against food contamination handwashing must be performed properly using the following steps:

  1. Wet hands and arms with running water, as hot as you can comfortably stand.

  2. Apply soap and lather well

  3. Scrub hands and arms thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. A nail brush may be used to clean under the nails and between fingers.

  4. Rinse thoroughly.

  5. Dry hands and arms with a single-use towel or a hand air dryer. Never dry hands on kitchen towels, aprons, or wiping cloths.

    *Hand sanitizers should never be used in place of proper handwashing.*
When to wash
Washing hands frequently and as necessary is just as important as using the proper technique. Foodhandlers shall always wash their hands:
  • Before working with food.
  • Before handling clean equipment, utensils, or tableware.
  • After using the restroom.
  • After coughing, sneezing, eating, drinking, smoking, or touching the skin or hair.
  • After handling soiled equipment or utensils.
  • When switching between working with raw food and working with ready-to-eat food.
  • As often as necessary during food preparation to prevent cross-contamination.
  • After touching anything that may contaminate hands.
  • When using gloves, always wash hands prior to wearing or changing them.
Where to wash
Adequate facilities designated exclusively for handwashing shall be readily available to employees at all times. These facilities shall be conveniently located in all food preparation areas and be equipped with the following:

  • Hot and cold running water.
  • Soap and paper towels provided in dispensers, a nail brush, and a waste receptacle. Check dispensers on a regular basis and stock extra supplies for quick replenishing.
  • Handwash signs to remind employees to wash hands frequently.

    --Never use the handwash sink to store kitchen items or anything else.

    --Never use the food preparation sink or utensil washing sink to clean hands.
Management's role
Management serves a critical role in the success of a handwashing program. They must:
  • Establish and enforce policies on when, where, and how handwashing should occur.
  • Train and retrain employees regarding proper handwashing procedures.
  • Model proper handwashing practices at all times.
For more Information
For more information on food protection, please contact the Resource Management Environmental Health Division, (707) 784-6765.