Washing hands before or after touching food

Wash Your Hands!

BY Jaime Foster | February 27, 2015

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The most effective way to prevent foodborne illness is to wash your hands both before you begin food preparation and after you have touched foods known to be sources of foodborne pathogens, like raw meats, poultry, or fish.


Keeping your hands clean is a simple step you can take to prevent you and your family from getting sick, and from spreading illness.  Good personal hygiene is one of the simplest ways to prevent foodborne illnesses from occurring. Did you know foodborne pathogens that are associated with poor personal hygiene have the highest incidence and cost? (Reference).  These germs can get onto hands, and if they are not washed off, they can be passed from person to person and make people sick.   Hands can become contaminated in several different ways.

You should always wash your hands when doing the following:

  • After using the restroom or changing a diaper
  • After handling trash
  • Before eating
  • Before handling ready to eat foods such as lettuce, salads, fresh fruits, etc.
  • After handling raw meat
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • Touching any part of your body
  • After eating or drinking

Did you know there’s a proper way to wash your hands?  Here’s how!

  1. Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap.
  2. Rub your hands together to make lather and scrub them well.
  3. Scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  4. Continue scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  5. Rinse your hands well under running water.
  6. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.

What about the use of hand sanitizer?  Studies continue to show that handwashing is more effective at reducing germs on the skin, however if soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer.

Want to Know More? Read these articles for additional information.

Ejemot RI, Ehiri JE, Meremikwu MM, Critchley JA. Hand washing for preventing diarrhoea.  Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jan 23;(1): (Reference) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004265.pub2/abstract. Accessed March 5, 2015.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Handwashing: Clean Hands Saves Lives.  (Reference) http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-handwashing.html.  Accessed September 28, 2014.

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