Australian Food Safety Week

Food safety – it’s in your hands

In Australian Food Safety Week 2020, let’s all remember how important proper handwashing is to keep food safe. The most important way we can all contribute to food safety is to wash our hands – properly.

Handwashing has been in the spotlight this year as a major preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19.   In the food processing and food service sectors, effective handwashing is well-established as an important means of reducing the risk of food contamination and foodborne illness.  So what is the science behind handwashing and food safety? 

The world around us is full of viruses and microbes.  Many are pathogenic, which means they can cause disease.  Once on your hands, viruses and microbes easily spread to other areas on your body or transfer to other people or surfaces – including food and food preparation materials. That is why we need to wash our hands frequently and effectively. Quickly rubbing hands together under water will not achieve an adequate clean.  Proper handwashing with soap and water is a quick and effective way to stop the spread of contaminants because soap is composed of molecules that attach to microbes and viruses to neutralise them.  Doing it correctly can make the difference between staying healthy and becoming ill or even transferring a preventable infection.

Scrubbing hands with soap to create friction for at least 20 seconds is recommended.  The type of soap is not important; technique is key.

  • Start by wetting your hands with clean, running warm water, and then apply soap.
  • Create a lather in your hands by rubbing them together with the soap to create friction. Rub the lather on your palms and the backs of your hands. Make sure to go around and between all of your fingers and both thumbs. Move down your fingers to include the tips and nail bed. And even clean under the tips of your nails, as applicable.
  • Continue this scrubbing and rubbing motion for at least 20 seconds.
  • The next important step is to thoroughly rinse your hands under clean, running water.
  • And finally, dry your hands using a clean towel (or paper towel). You can also allow them to air dry. But don’t dry them on your clothes.