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Hand Washing for Food Handlers

1 September 2023

Hand washing for food handlers is an essential aspect of cleanliness and hygiene. When it comes to food hazards, food handlers are potentially one of the biggest risks in terms of food safety. However, to extend this, hand washing is not important only in a food preparing environment, but in a domestic one as well.


Hand Washing at Home

According to a research by BMC Public Health, Denmark tops the ranking when hand hygiene of consumers is looked into. According to a study Hand hygiene practices during meal preparation—a ranking among ten European countries, the ranking is as follows: Denmark, Greece, Norway, Romania, Hungary, Germany, UK, Portugal, France, and Spain. However, the overall conclusion of the study was that the hand washing is often done incorrectly by skipping areas of hand when washing, or washing one’s hands not long enough. Unfortunately, this is also true when handling risky food such as raw chicken. According to the study, the young families and pregnant women are most likely to neglect a proper hand washing technique. On the other hand, the elderly individuals generally do not wash their hands when required.


Hand Washing for Food Handlers – Why is it Important

Most likely, the single most important activity in the food preparation area is proper hand washing. Hands are used for everything – scratching your nose, touching your phone, keys, emptying bins, handling cash, and finally touching the food that is being prepared. It is incredibly easy to cross-contaminate food just by using unwashed hands.

Food workers have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that they do not contaminate food. One of the characteristics of a good food worker is a positive attitude towards hygiene and a willingness to help maintain a high standard at the workplace. Hand washing is at the top of hygiene importance.

Food hygiene legislation places a legal responsibility on food workers, proprietors and visitors to maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness.

Keep the body clean – Food workers should wash or shower daily to remove the layers of dirt, dead skin, sweat and bacteria that build up on the body which can be passed onto food.

The law requires that:

  • Food workers are required to maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness and wear suitable clean clothes, and, if necessary, protective clothing.
  • It is an offense for an employee of a food business to fail to comply with Annex II of the Regulation EC no. 852/2004 (on the hygiene of foodstuffs).

Want to learn more? Explore eLearn Safety fully online Food Safety (HACCP) Level 1 course.


When to Wash Hands

Hands can never be washed too often, but they can be washed not often enough. This is especially important when hand washing for food handlers is in question. Always aim to wash your hands:

  • Before changing into work clothes to avoid transferring dirt and bacteria onto them.
  • Before handling food of any type.
  • After handling one type of food and before handling something else, especially after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, raw eggs and dairy.
  • After cleaning surfaces, utensils or any equipment.
  • After handling waste.
  • After handling money.
  • After blowing your nose.
  • After coughing or sneezing.
  • After touching hair or face.
  • After going to the toilet.
  • After eating, drinking or smoking.

The main point to take is – Wash Your Hands regularly!


Hand Washing for Food Handlers – How To Steps

Hands must be washed at a wash hand basin supplied with running hot and cold water. Liquid bacterial soap and an approved means of hand drying should be used. The hands, front and back and the gap between the thumb and forefinger must be washed using a rubbing action. It is not satisfactory to run fingers under the tap and then to dry hands on uniforms.

  • Hands should be thoroughly dried.
  • Separate sinks need to be available for hand washing!
  • The correct way to wash your hands:
  • If required, make sure your sleeves are pulled up or turned up and they don’t cover your wrists.
  • Wet your hands under warm running water.
  • Use enough soap to form a good lather, and soap all parts of your hand, fingers and thumbs right up to the wrist.
  • Keep washing your hands for about 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands under running water until they are free of all traces of lather. Use fingers to help remove the suds.
  • Turn off the tap with an elbow or paper towel.
  • Dry hands thoroughly using fresh paper towels.

To learn more watch the below video prepared by titled How to wash your hands properly.


Hand Washing for Food Handlers – Why Does it Matter?

Hand washing for food handlers is extremely important as correct hand washing will remove bacteria such as E. Coli and salmonella. Bacteria on the hands have an ideal environment, They have food, moisture and a temperature of around 37°C allowing speedy reproduction and a higher risk of infection. This is why hands must be kept meticulously clean at all times.


Online Food Safety Training

Please remember – it is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity!

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email