Clean Hands — Safe Food: KEEP THOSE HANDS CLEAN!

Clean Hands — Safe Food: KEEP THOSE HANDS CLEAN!

Marshalee Valentine

Thursday, May 21, 2020

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Without a doubt one of the most important food safety precautions you can take is washing your hands: b efore, during, and after preparing food; before eating food; before and after treating a cut or wound; after using the bathroom or cleaning someone who has just used the bathroom; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; after touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste; after touching garbage; and the list goes on.

Bacteria living on surfaces of the above can be transferred to our hands (especially if the hands are warm and moist) and then to your mouth or your food and then ingested to cause illnesses such as gastroenteritis and diarrhoea. You can get germs on your hands when you touch objects and when you touch other people. Additionally, you can spread germs on your hands to other people you touch. The most common infections are spread through touching. While many people are of the impression that hand-hygiene infections are minor health issues, in reality, they have serious consequences.

To put the importance of handwashing in perspective, an elementary school teacher in Idaho did an experiment on handwashing in an effort to demonstrate how bacteria is spread and the importance of washing hands during the flu season. She asked students with various levels of hand cleanliness to touch pieces of bread that were taken from a loaf. The slices of bread were then placed in individual Ziploc bags for a month and the results were then displayed to the students. The slices of bread under experiment were a control (fresh and untouched), a slice touched by the whole class with unwashed hands, a slice touched by the whole class after washing hands with warm water and soap, a slice touched by the class after using sanitiser only and a slice that was rubbed on the classroom laptops. The only slices of bread that had no growth of bacteria were the control and the slice that was touched after the children's hands were washed with warm water and soap.

From this experiment you can see that walking around with a sanitiser attached to your bag does not remove bacteria from your hands, as sanitisers do not get rid of dirt/soil which may contain some types of bacteria. To remove bacteria, you need to follow the proper handwashing protocols suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.

4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air-dry them.

6. Sanitise!

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