What is one of the best ways to prevent foodborne illness?
One of the best and most effective ways to keep your foods safe in any operation is proper handwashing and glove usage. Over 85% - let me repeat that – 85% - of foodborne illness are connected to improper handwashing/glove usage. Does your staff know this fact, and do they know the proper steps? Let’s have a basic review.
First – when should they be washed?? After eating, drinking, smoking or vaping, coughing, sneezing or scratching any part of the body. Also, before and after working with raw products, handling dirty equipment, and returning from the restroom. The first group prevents any bacteria that are on your body or clothing from being transferred to the food. The second group includes working with raw product, after breaking down of equipment, and use of restrooms.
Bacteria on your hands are introduced into the foods, and any bacteria in the food can stay on your hands, and get introduced to the next foods being handled. Something that is frequently overlooked is when equipment is broken down, handwashing should be done before handling food again.
A point that is showing up on DoH reports and my audits are dishwashing staff not washing hands at the proper time. Larger restaurants have a team where one worker loads the machine, and the other empties. Smaller restaurants have smaller staff, or not even room for more than 1 worker. After scraping and loading the dirty dishes into the machine, the single worker needs to wash their hands before handling the clean dishes/equipment. Kinda makes sense! Dishes come out sanitized, and you don’t want to re-contaminate them as they come out of the machine.
After using the restroom is an obvious one (I hope!!) A couple of additional points – When you finish washing and drying your hands, use another paper towel to open the door. We have all noticed when using a public restroom, a lot of people DO NOT wash their hands when they are finished, Aside from the yuck factor, the door handle is now contaminated when they leave. The last step of using the restroom is to wash your hands immediately when you return to the kitchen. My favorite episode of Seinfeld is when the owner is making Jerrys pizza after not washing his hands in the restroom.
A recent development is that as restaurants “Go Green’, paper towel dispensers in restrooms are replaced with those high speed blast air dryers, there are no paper towels to open the handle with!! The only option is to go pull off some TP to open the door, which means washing your hands again. One restaurant that I audit, to complement their airdryer, has added a small towel dispenser with trash bucket right by the door.
Now that we know When, let’s look at How. Here is a great link from the Hawaii Department of Health website
. It is a great and easy to understand guide on how to wash your hands, and is also available in a wide variety of languages. Print, review with your staff and post by each hand sink. A key point is the briskly rubbing in of the soap. Don’t just tickle your hands. Really work the soap into all spaces on your hand.
Speaking of handsinks – each handsink should be designated (labeled) as handwashing only, be fully stocked with towels and soap, and be accessible. If you are washing your hands in a sink that was just used for, let’s say rinsing off some chicken, there is a possibility of contaminating your hands, or the chicken could be contaminated from the previous handwashing! Even seeing garnishes from a completed drink in a handsink may be seen as mis-use. Ensure that your staff knows what each sink is designated for. Make your staff to take the right steps when a dispenser is empty, not just walk away when they use the last of the soap or towels.
Next month, we will look at proper glove and barrier use.
PETER B FOOD SAFETY AUDITS provides independent third-party audits of foodservice operations – from small to large restaurants, hotels, residences, supermarkets and multi-unit facilities, pre-opening and routine audits.
Having attended NYC Technical College for Hotel & Restaurant Management, and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park in 1986, my experience of 30+ years working as Chef and manager in hotels and restaurants in New York City, Oahu, and the Hawaiian Islands brings real world knowledge of how a kitchen should operate to provide safe food and follow regulations.