Keep it Clean! by Mark Barnes



The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that practicing poor personal hygiene is one of the five most significant contributing factors to foodborne illness. In fact, the most common foodborne illness, Norovirus, is mostly spread through poor personal hygiene practices, specifically the fecal-hand-oral route - GROSS!
 
Personal hygiene encompasses many topics including proper apron and uniform usage, appropriate hair and facial hair coverings, jewelry, hand and nail care, smoking, eating (both for a business purpose and as a meal), drinking, and proper glove usage. While the above topics are crucial, the two most critical aspects of personal hygiene are also the most fundamental - working with clean hands and avoiding the workplace when seriously ill.
 
Hand washing is a fundamental skill that we learn as children. Done properly, the five-step process should take a minimum of 20 seconds:
 
1. Wet hands and arms with warm, running water (100º F (37.7º C))
2. Apply soap
3. Scrub for 10-15 seconds
4. Rinse
5. Dry
 
Unfortunately getting our folks to effectively wash their hands is often easier said than done. One recent CDC study found that only about 1 out of 10 people wash their hands adequately and the participants knew they were being tested! While it is important to improve the frequency of hand washing in our establishments, we also need to encourage consistent effective technique as well. The “rinse and shake” just doesn’t cut it!
 
In addition to good personal hygiene behaviors, we (and our employees) also need to be aware of certain symptoms and conditions which require action. Our employees must report the following symptoms and diagnosed illnesses to the Person-In-Charge (PIC):
 
1. Sore throat with fever - requires restriction from all food handling activities in general population establishments and exclusion from the facility in nursing homes, day cares, and hospitals
2. Vomiting, diarrhea, or uncovered open wounds or lesions - requires immediate exclusion from facility
3. Jaundice - requires immediate exclusion from the facility and reporting to the health department
4. Diagnosis of Hepatitis A, E. Coli, Norovirus, Shigella, Salmonella typhi, or Salmonella nontyphoidal - requires immediate exclusion from the facility and reporting to the health department
 
By reporting the symptom or diagnosed illness to the PIC, the employee satisfies their legal responsibility and transfers that responsibility squarely onto the shoulders of the PIC. Once the PIC receives this information, it is their immediate legal obligation to take the appropriate action - whether that means restricting or excluding the employee as well as any required reporting to the health department. The importance of taking appropriate action with these symptoms and diagnoses cannot be understated. The above symptoms are associated with an extremely high risk of contagion, and the conditions have all been commonly blamed for foodborne disease outbreaks. When our food handlers properly wash their hands regularly as needed and report illnesses and symptoms of illness so that we as the PIC can take appropriate action, we greatly reduce the risk of cross-contamination throughout our operations as well as the transmission of illness.
 
The guests in our food service operations are paying for hospitality and good food, they are not hoping for a side order of illness.
 
This blog is not intended to be a substitute for the user's judgement and common sense. Any errors are unintentional. 


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