The food service industry is heavily regulated to maintain not only great dining experiences for customers, but the highest standards of health and safety.

One of the most basic, but important elements of handling or being near food – and in the food service industry, is properly washing your hands to help eliminate the spread of bacteria.

Although it might seem basic, there are a number of tips for washing your hands properly that can ensure you get rid of all germs and bacteria while hand washing.

Employees entering, or already entering the food service industry can learn more about essential health and safety practices and a number of essential skills through ProTraining by Yardstick Training’s industry-leading, cutting edge courses.

Washing Your Hands – Why You Should

The Centre for Disease Control notes that a wide number of diseases and illnesses can be spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.

Handwashing with soap removes germs from hands – it’s that simple.

People frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even realizing it. Germs can enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth and make us sick. When working in the food service industry it’s important to clean your hands before, during and after dealing with food – and maintaining a proper personal hygiene regiment.

Unwashed hands can transfer germs into food and drinks – some germs can even multiply in certain types of food and drink, under certain conditions, and make people sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cite five highly infective pathogens that can easily be transmitted by food workers and cause severe illness.

These five foodborne pathogens, also known as the ‘Big 5,’ include Norovirus, the Hepatitis A virus, Salmonella Typhi, Shigella spp., and Escherichia coli (E.coli) or other Enterohemorrhagic or Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.

Properly washing your hands can minimize the risk of any of these pathogens being transferred from you, to a customer.

These Big 5 pathogens have a low infectious dose, meaning even a small amount of exposure can lead to illness. They contaminate the gastrointestinal system after ingestion, and are shed in feces. These pathogens all shed in high numbers.

A food service employee infected with a “Big 5” pathogen may shed hundreds of thousands of pathogens in their feces that can be easily transmitted to food even when good hand washing practices are used.

Food service employee washing hands. Food service hygiene. Cleanliness.

When You Should Wash Your Hands and How to Wash

When working in the food service industry, it’s important to ensure you are always working in the cleanest environment possible. Below are examples of when you should wash your hands:

  • When entering any area where food preparation takes place
  • Before putting on single-use gloves for working with food
  • Before starting food preparation
  • Before handling clean equipment and utensils
  • When changing tasks and switching between handling raw foods and working with ready-to-eat foods
  • After handling dirty dishes, equipment, or utensils
  • After using the toilet
  • After coughing, sneezing, blowing the nose, using tobacco, eating, or drinking

Follow the five steps below to wash your hands the right way every time.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water, turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. It’s important to remember to clean under your fingernails as that’s where a majority of bacteria hide.
  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. Make sure to use the towel to turn off the faucet, to make sure you don’t re-contaminate your hands
Kitchen worker washes her hands properly. Food service industry. Proper hand washing.

Rights and Responsibilities of Employers and Employees

Managers are responsible for not only maintaining the cleanliness of any food preparation or service area, but also making sure employees understand their responsibilities and safe practices.

Managers should ensure employees are trained in:

  • The causes of food-borne illnesses
  • The relationship between job tasks, food-borne illnesses, and personal hygiene
  • Reporting health and safety issues

Food employees can help prevent food-borne illness by:

  • Not touching ready-to-eat food with bare hands
  • Washing hands frequently, especially whenever they have touched anything that may have contaminated them
  • Not working when ill
  • Knowing all aspects of food handling and the risk factors associated with food-borne illness
  • Being aware that uncontrolled risk factors can cause consumers to have food-borne illness.

As a worker in the food service industry, you should always prioritize not only the quality of the food and beverages you serve, but also the cleanliness of yourself and your work areas. ProTraining by Yardstick Training’s online food and beverage courses are designed to teach you how to excel in the industry and uphold the highest standards.