When considering what factors have the greatest impact on your business, restroom cleanliness and hand hygiene may not be the first things that come to mind. However, a U.K. study showed that over 10 percent of people don’t wash their hands, and of those who do wash, 95 percent fail to do so properly. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that the spread of germs from hands to food accounts for 89 percent of cases of contaminated food.
Improper hand hygiene can result in the spread of dangerous pathogens, tarnished business reputation and even financial loss. To encourage thorough hand hygiene – and retain business – careful consideration should be given to the type of soap and dispensers that you install in your restaurant’s restrooms. When given educational materials, training and effective resources, staff will be equipped and motivated to avoid expensive food safety mishaps.
Encouraging Hand Hygiene
Although many restrooms feature the familiar sign “Employees Must Wash Hands Before Returning to Work,” several studies reveal that proper, regular handwashing is less common than you think. As many as 73 percent of food facilities were out of compliance with proper handwashing procedures in one study, depending upon the type of facility.
Educating all staff on the importance of hand hygiene is crucial to preventing the spread of illness and providing food free from contamination. In addition to thorough training by knowledgeable professionals, signage with best practices and tips should be visible and available to staff emphasizing the impact of proper handwashing. Most importantly, foodservice managers should work to prevent the breeding of pathogens and bacteria by thoughtful selection of restroom products and equipment.
Dishing on Dispensers
Hygiene is key when it comes to handling food, and many restaurants have replaced their bars of soap or pumped liquid soap with a refillable reservoir. These bulk dispensers are a less expensive option, but also frequently cause messes and invite greater bacterial contamination. Because bulk systems are not sealed, the exposed soap is vulnerable to contamination from the environment and the person refilling and handling the dispenser. In one study, 25 percent of bulk dispensers were found to be excessively contaminated. The researchers found that bacteria on the study participants’ hands increased 26-fold after they used the contaminated soap.
With “closed” dispenser systems, product can be refilled by inserting a new sealed cartridge of soap into the dispenser. This method eliminates contact between the product and the environment before the product is used to wash hands, minimizing the risk of bacterial contamination. Unlike the refilling process for bulk dispensers, sealed cartridges are quick, tidy and easy to change. With proper training and regular maintenance, foodservice staff can protect employees and customers alike from the dangers of unwanted bacteria.
These dispensers can also be filled with foam soaps, which can contribute to significant water and energy savings. By 2025, the UN expects that 1.8 billion people will be living in water scarce countries or regions. This is not just an issue that affects the developing world – nine European countries can be considered water‐stressed. Using foam soap can amount to 16 percent water saving, helping to conserve precious and finite resources.
Creating a Culture of Food Safety
Employees and customers are much more likely to wash their hands with soap if the product is available from attractive and clean dispensing systems. To increase hand hygiene compliance, ensure that clear handwashing instructions are posted visibly and educational resources are available and easy to find for your foodservice staff. Clean restrooms stocked with simple and efficient products will also boost your business’s image, serving up time and money savings for restaurateurs while providing guests the ultimate five-star experience.
 Palumbo, M.S., J.R. Gorny, D.E. Gombas, L.R. Beuchat, C.M. Bruhn, B. Cassens, P. Delaquis, J.M. Farber, L.J. Harris, K. Ito, M.T. Osterholm, M. Smith and K.M.J. Swanson. 2007. Recommendations for Handling Fresh-cut Leafy Green Salads by Consumers and Retail Foodservice Operators. Food Prot Trends 27:892-898.
 Gerba, C. P. et al, Bacterial Contamination of Liquid Soaps, 2006, University of Arizona
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