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Risky Food Preparation Commonly Reported by Food Handlers

Patrick Boshell
July 17, 2018


GettyImages-846625432A network of environmental health specialist and epidemiologists at US federal and state health agencies conducted a study on food handlers to help understand the underlying causes of foodborne illness.


In the US for example, 250 people are admitted to hospital every day due to foodborne illness, and unfortunately, eight people die as a result. With hands being the primary vehicle for transporting bacteria, food handlers are consistently implicated in these incidents, with 36% of outbreaks linked to poor personal hygiene.


The results indicated that risky food preparation practices were more common than you might think.  For example, results show that food handlers:


  • 23% did not always wash their hands frequently or adequately enough.
  • 60% did not always wear gloves while touching ready-to-eat (RTE) food.
  • 33% did not change gloves between handling raw meant and RTE food.
  • 5% had worked while sick with vomiting and diarrhea.


Reducing the Risk of Foodborne Illness


Personal hygiene, hand washing, employee illness awareness, and training are critical factors in limiting the transfer of disease from known sources of contamination.  Unwashed hands are considered the most significant pathway to pathogen transfer and food safety experts advise hand washing procedures should be implemented and strictly monitored.


Proper hand hygiene requires three components: 1) a proper protocol, 2) an appropriate hand washing or cleansing agent, and 3) compliance (execution at frequent enough interval to prevent infection).


Hand washing, when done correctly, is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. Proper hand washing technique is easy to learn and can significantly reduce the spread of infectious diseases. When teaching hand washing remember to always follow best practice.





Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in place of hand washing if hands are not visibly soiled or if soap and water are not available.  In addition to improved spreadability, alcohol foam sanitizers have been shown to provide superior compliance and efficacy.  The effectiveness of alcohol hand sanitizers combined with hand washing results in an average 20% to 40% reduction in infections.


Education and training are vital elements of a food safety program in all sectors of the food industry.  In any organization, however small, the instruction provided should ensure that all employees understand the basic principles of food safety and their own responsibilities in that respect within an organization.  Food-handling staff should receive education in food safety and personal hygiene and should be required to undergo a test of their knowledge of the subject.  Refresher courses should be given periodically through employment.  Particular attention should be drawn to the need to report illness to the supervisor as soon as it occurs.


The good news is that infection control practices and programs do not have to be difficult to implement and manage.  When it comes to food safety and reducing the spread of foodborne illness, education and awareness remain our best defense.




11 Times Chain Restaurants Gave People Food Poisoning


How Do Food Handlers Rate Their Own Food Safety Practices?




Food Safety is in Our Hands



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