During this final week of National Food Safety Month, the focus is on the vital role of food handlers in maintaining proper food safety protocols.
To prevent foodborne illnesses from occurring, maintain a high standard of personal hygiene and cleanliness. Even healthy people carry bacteria. By touching parts of their bodies, such as the nose, mouth, hair, and even clothes, bacteria can spread from the hands to the food.
Here are six hygienic best practices for food handlers to follow:
- Know how and when to wash hands. This will help prevent the spread of pathogens that can cause a foodborne illness to occur. Food handlers should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds before preparing food or working with clean equipment and utensils, or putting on single-use gloves. Other examples of when to wash hands include after a bathroom break, leaving and returning to the kitchen/prep areas, clearing tables/busing dirty dishes and taking out garbage.
- Follow your operation’s glove policy. This may include new mandates requiring a single-use glove to cover bandages on the hands. Food handlers also should be aware of when to change their gloves. That includes if there’s a tear in them, if they become soiled, before starting a new task or if they’re handling trash.
- Wear clean uniforms, clothing and aprons. Leave yesterday’s dirty clothes at home so they don’t contaminate food. Aprons should be clean, too. Do not rely on them to cover up dirty spots. A soiled apron could easily contaminate food or the food-prep area.
- Don’t wear excess jewelry. Jewelry beyond a plain, band ring shouldn’t be worn if you’re preparing food. It could trap dirt or fall off and get lost in food being prepared.
- Do not wear ungloved false or painted fingernails. They could chip or even fall off and end up in a customer’s meal. Nails should be kept short and clean.
- Cover and restrain loose hair with a net or appropriate hat. It will keep it away from or touching food, clean equipment and utensils. In addition, it will also prevent the food handler from touching his or her hair while working with food.
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