Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Prevent Cross-Contamination through Handwashing

September is National Food Safety Month and this year’s theme is one that we can all benefit from, whether you work in a restaurant or prepare meals at home for your family and friends. “Be Safe, Don’t Cross-Contaminate,” focuses on best practices to avoid the spread of pathogens from one food or surface to another.

“Every day our hands touch surfaces covered with pathogens that we cannot see,” said Pam St. Pierre, Louisiana Restaurant Association VP of Member Services. “Even healthy people can spread pathogens and for this reason, handwashing is the most important part of personal hygiene.”

Hands should be washed in a sink designated for handwashing, not in sinks for food prep, dishwashing or utility sinks. The proper steps to wash hands should take about 20 seconds. Here are the five steps to correctly washing your hands.

1.      Wet hands and arms. Use running water as hot as you can comfortably stand. It should be at least 100° F.

2.      Apply soap. Apply enough to build up a good lather.

3.      Scrub hands and arms vigorously. Scrub them for 10 to 15 seconds. Clean under fingernails and between fingers.

4.      Rinse hands and arms thoroughly. Use running warm water.

5.      Dry hands and arms. Use a single-use paper towel or a hand dryer. Consider using a paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door when exiting the room.

“While it may seem basic, food handlers must wash their hands correctly and as often as needed to prevent hands from becoming a vehicle for cross-contamination,” added St. Pierre.

Knowing when to wash your hands is also key to reducing cross-contamination. Food handlers must wash their hands before starting work and also after the following activities:
  • Using the restroom
  • Handling raw meat, poultry and seafood (before and after)
  • Touching the hair, face or body
  • Sneezing, coughing or using a tissue
  • Eating, drinking, smoking or chewing gum or tobacco
  • Handling chemicals that might affect food safety
  • Taking out garbage
  • Clearing tables or busing dirty dishes
  • Touching clothing or aprons
  • Handling money
  • Leaving and returning to the kitchen/prep area
  • Handling service animals

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) and the LRA partner year around to raise awareness of the importance of food safety to the restaurant industry and our diners. Through ServSafe, a nationally-approved and recognition, gold standard curriculum for food safety and sanitation, the LRA has trained thousands of restaurant and foodservice employees.

Registration for ServSafe, a food safety and sanitation course, can be done online here. Classes are offered across Louisiana.

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