David Shumaker, Microbiology Scientist, GOJO Industries
When it comes to food safety how many of us think about the important role hand hygiene plays? While we may focus on food preparation, it is crucial for us to remember good hand hygiene is an important part of a foodservice operation’s food safety program. Whether it takes place on the farm where the food is being grown, or in the kitchen (at home or in a restaurant), hand hygiene is vital to help prevent food from becoming contaminated.
When people think about hand hygiene, they typically think about handwashing with soap and water. Antibacterial soaps, which are common in the foodservice industry, contain ingredients designed to kill germs on the skin, adding an extra level of protection from microbial contamination. In fact, a 2011 study published in the Journal of Food Protection found that antibacterial soaps provide a statistically significant greater reduction in bacteria over non-antibacterial or bland soaps.
While handwashing with soap and water is a common practice amongst restaurant workers, alcohol-based hand sanitisers also provide foodservice workers with convenient hand hygiene when soap and water are not readily available. These can also be used as part of an overall hand hygiene regimen following handwashing. In fact, it has been shown that hand hygiene regimens that include handwashing and hand sanitizing can be more effective at reducing microorganisms on skin than handwashing alone, decreasing the risk of transmission of pathogens from contaminated hands of foodservice workers to food. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective antimicrobials that reduce the spread of foodborne disease-causing microorganisms on the skin.
When it comes to hand hygiene products, formulation matters. Good efficacy, skin health and skin feel are three important characteristics when it comes to hand hygiene products. GOJO offers a full portfolio of hand hygiene solutions that are designed to deliver these three attributes. The GOJO product portfolio includes both antibacterial and non-antibacterial soaps and PURELL® Advanced Hand Sanitizer. This allows facilities to choose the best hand hygiene option to meet their needs.
Soap and hand sanitizer dispensers also play a role in reducing the spread of germs that can cause illness. For example, touch-free dispensers allow for portion-controlled dispensing and easy access to hand hygiene products. Another reason to move towards touch-free dispensers is the use of these dispensers has been shown to improve compliance rates over manual dispensers. Yet, there is one dispensing system to avoid - an open, refillable bulk soap dispenser.
Open, refillable bulk soap dispensers are those that are refilled by pouring soap into an open, partially filled reservoir. Three published studies reveal potential human health risks exist among those who wash their hands with soap from open, refillable bulk soap dispensers. The studies found these types of dispensers are rarely cleaned, leading to exposure to microbial contamination.
• Findings in a study published in the March 2011 Journal of Environmental Health show 25 per cent of open, refillable bulk soap dispensers in the public are contaminated with unsafe levels of bacteria.
• A follow-up study published in the May 2011 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology reports washing with soap from refillable bulk` dispensers can leave hands with 25 times more bacteria after washing.
• According to a study published in the January 2012 issue of Biofouling, biofilms grow in open, refillable bulk soap dispensers, causing recontamination of the soap even after the dispensers are cleaned with bleach.
Continuing to use these types of dispensers actually works against efforts to create a healthy environment. One way to overcome this challenge is to switch to sealed soap systems, which provide the solution to reducing contamination risks. The soap inside of these systems is protected from contamination because it is factory sealed and includes a fresh nozzle with each refill.
The world over, food hygiene is of critical importance. And, hand hygiene is amongst the top priorities when it comes to maintaining hygiene standards and specifications in food settings.