Washing your hands effectively

Effective handwashing in the food processing and food service sectors is an important means of reducing the risk of food contamination and foodborne illness.
Handwashing became a hot food safety topic last week when research undertaken at Rutgers University (USA) was published demonstrating cool water is apparently just as effective as hot water in terms of washing away harmful bacteria.

The research was undertaken to address misinformation about handwashing, and the absence of scientific data on its effectiveness.

The study involved 20 volunteers whose hands were contaminated with a harmless strain of E. coli bacteria and directed to wash their hands at varying water temperatures (15–38°C) using different volumes of soap.

The results indicate that there is no difference between washing hands with cold or hot water, nor does it matter how much soap is used. Even 10 seconds washing significantly removed bacteria from the hands.
The study has implications for water temperature policy, and could impact on energy and water usage in food premises.

But before you modify your facility, the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code requires that food premises maintain, at or near each handwashing facility, a supply of warm running water; and soap; or other items that may be used to thoroughly clean hands (standards 3.2.2, Clause 17).

Importantly, increased handwashing and hand sanitising by food industry personnel is an important strategy for reducing the risk of food contamination. However, there is a need to better understand human behaviours and how they influence the effectiveness of handwashing.

The study is published in the June 2017 edition of the Journal of Food Protection.