As a food handler, you might think that the most important part of your job is making tasty food. But you would be wrong.
The most important part of your job as a food handler is assuring that you do not get your customers sick.
The easiest and most important step to assure food safety is proper hand washing. This post aims to give food handlers a primer as to why you should wash your hands correctly, when hand washing is needed and other frequently asked questions.
Let’s get started by first looking at when hand sanitization is necessary.
Below is a helpful but incomplete list of times that food handlers should wash their hands:
- Before starting your shift
- Using the restroom
- Touching your clothing, apron, hair, face, or any other place on your body
- Handling money
- Sneezing, coughing, or using a tissue
- After smoking
- After eating
- After using the telephone
- Taking out the garbage
- Handling chemicals
- Clearing dirty table and dises
- And generally anytime you leave and re-enter the food prep area
We like to live by the model that if you are questioning whether or not to wash your hands, it is better to be on the side of caution and just wash them.
What can be transmitted if a food handler doesn’t wash their hands?
Below is a list of common viruses and bacterias that can me transmitted from an infected food handler to a customer if proper hand washing procedures are not followed.
- E coli
- Giardia intestinalis
- Hepatitis A virus
- And many, many others…
Disgusting and dangerous. Generally if you are feeling ill, it is best to call in and request off from work to stop even the potential exposure of viruses and bacteria.
How should a food handler wash their hands?
To ensure proper hand cleanliness, there is a generally accepted procedure to washing your hands as a food handler.
Simply follow this 5-step process. It should only take you around 20 seconds to complete, so there is not excuse not to do it.
1. Wet your hands, wrists, and arms
2. Apply your soap
3. Scrub hands, wrists, fingernails and arms vigorously for 10 – 15 seconds
4. Rinse the soap off of your hands, wrists, and arms thoroughly
5. Dry off with a single use paper towel or a hand dryer
Washing your hands is as simple as that.
Should a food handler just wear gloves?
A common question we often get when it comes to hand sanitization for food handlers is, “Can I just wear gloves instead of washing my hands?”
Although it may seem on face value like a simple solution, it is actually even more complicated to “just wear gloves.”
First off, according to food safety laws, food handlers actually MUST wash their hands before putting on gloves, so you actually have to wash your hands anyway.
Second, a food handler must change gloves between every task they are doing in the kitchen. Having to change your gloves dozens of times in a shift is very annoying, not to mention all the other clothing requirements.
Overall, it is better as a food handler to just follow the hand washing procedure.
Can a food handler just use hand sanitizer or other antiseptics?
Using soap and water is the best way to reduce any sort of food contamination, but in some situations, soap and water may not be available.
If this is the case, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can quickly and effectively reduce the number of germs, viruses, and bacteria on your hands.
Note: It is suggested to use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Although hand sanitizers are helpful to have on hand (no pun intended), they may not be as effective when your hands have visible dirt or grease on them. Hand sanitizers also may be less effective in removing harmful chemicals, heavy metals, and pesticides.
As stated in the beginning of this article, food safety is the number one most important job of a food handler.
Proper hand washing technique is a necessary skill to have as a food handler. It’s quick. It’s easy. And there isn’t any reason not to do it.