Washing Your Your Hands is Serious Business

It’s a mantra repeated often, every day, in the food industry: wash your hands. Retail store clerks putting out perishables, or production line workers processing chicken, beef or pork are repeatedly reminded to wash their hands to prevent the spread of harmful microbes that could make them sick and containinate food supplies.

Up to now, however, hand washing was viewed mostly as a voluntary action, and reports surfaced that it wasn’t nearly as prevalent as it needed to be to insure a safe food supply. Now, under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), hand washing gains a new prominence as a required part of every processing plant’s food safety plan (which we’ve written about previously).

At the same time, in a happy coincidence, the World Health Organization (WHO) put on its scold face to tell global inhabitants (you, me and everybody else) that we needed to not just wash our hands frequently but also thoroughly.

Here’s a link to the website of my colleague, Paul Bernish, where you can watch a brief WHO video that shows you how to wash, and recommends that each session at the sink take at least a minute of your time.

Maybe what the hand washing campaign needs is something like the famous “Got Milk” ad effort, or a Smokey the Bear-type public service campaign. The point, of course, is that proper hand washing is ┬ábasic action anyone, even kids, can undertake, with the only cost being soap. Given our increasing knowledge about destructive microbes such as E. coli, listeria and salmonella, our future as a civilization may well depend upon turning hand washing into a habit on a global scale.

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