Handwashing Research Starts Here
A peer-reviewed definition of a Clean Hand
There is a need for research that gives operators the evidence-based data required to balance their handwashing risk with the benefits of an enduring solution. Operators are now being sought by the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI) and Handwashing For Life®(HFL) to help design the research necessary to provide irrefutable proof that data can deliver a sustainable solution – proof that data is the missing link to: self-motivated compliance, minimized outbreaks and the protection of brand values.
“What is the missing link in helping operators reduce their risk from poor handwashing?” This has been the core of discussions between HFL and CFI. The best answer we could come up with... there are gaps in the science, leaving the operators to make decisions without the evidence.
Handwashing compliance is rarely measured. What is your process and who is accountable? If we have a problem, who owns it?
There are many contributing factors that exist as hurdles or headwinds to raising handwashing performance. First, the risk will never be zero. Second, while the severity of the risk could be devastating to brand values, the probability of an outbreak is low. Third, the power of the status quo – no recent outbreaks. Fourth, the food handler experience – poor example by their supervisors and indefensible processes. Fifth, there is no way to keep score, no mile markers on the path to continuous improvement.
This combination of barriers can result in management complacency and analysis paralysis. Operators already have liability insurance as well as a public relations/legal team if an outbreak occurs. The status quo lives on.
Defining a “starting line” for such a project became CFI/HFL’s first joint research charge: to define a “clean hand”. A team of 20 potential peer reviewers agreed on this expression in words, knowing full well scientific research would be needed to add numbers, particularly to the nebulous term, “unlikely”:
A Clean Hand in the foodservice and food processing industries is one that is unlikely to transfer pathogens from the hand to food, surfaces or directly to other people.
A CFP issue has been submitted to re-create the Handwashing Committee in 2023. CFI/HFL are looking forward to supporting that endeavor, provided it is accepted. Stay tuned as we will be reporting progress as available.
A special thanks goes out to our reviewers, the very busy experts from a broad spectrum of experience including both the science and the applied science. Our next move is to match up the scientific protocols with the decision-support needed to help operators better protect their customers, staff, and brand value.
Handwashing For Life Founder and Research Correspondent
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