Research by Cardiff Metropolitan University’s ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre has found that that despite increased awareness of the importance of handwashing, people are still not using adequate techniques. Worryingly, hand washing techniques are also said to be poor amongst those receiving cancer care, as well as their caregivers.
The research, highlighted ahead of Global Handwashing Day on October 15th, found that of a group of 100 participants observed:
- only 30% implemented adequate hand washing and drying before preparing food
- 90% failed to implement adequate hand washing and drying immediately after handling raw chicken
- 62% failed to rub hands, palms and between fingers when washing hands
- 47% failed to use soap during one or more hand washing attempt
Handwashing is particularly important for people with reduced immune function to reduce the risk of infection. In another study by the University, “Food Safety Knowledge and Self-Reported Food Handling Practices in Cancer Treatment” published in 2018 in the Oncology Nursing Forum, it was found that only 58% of patients and their carers reported to rub their hands together and between fingers with soap for the recommended 20 seconds when washing hands.
How should we be washing hands?
Handwashing needs to include clean water and soap, rubbing all surfaces of the hands to create a lather (including the palms, between fingers and the backs of hands) followed by rinsing. Hands must also be dried using either disposable kitchen paper, a clean hand towel or a hand dryer.
Handwashing removes bacteria from hands to help prevent the spread of infections. Therefore it is essential to wash hands on occasions when hands may be contaminated such as:
- Before, during, and after preparing food, particularly after handing raw meat and poultry
- After using the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal
We should spend 20-30 seconds washing and drying our hands:
- Wet your hands with clean water
- Use soap
- Rub palm to palm
- Back of hands
- Fingers interlaced
- Rub fingernails
- Base of thumbs
- Rub wrists
- Rinse hands
- Dry hands using a clean towel or kitchen paper
Dr Ellen Evans, Research Fellow at Cardiff Metropolitan University’s ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre, specialising in food safety behavioural research, said: “Handwashing is one of the most effective methods for preventing cross-contamination and protecting us from illness. Failure to properly wash hands is frequently reported to be implicated in the spread of foodborne illness.
“Hand drying is also very important to prevent contamination from hands to food, surfaces and equipment. Drying hands removes a significant number of bacteria after hand washing as using a towel removes pathogens by means of friction.
“It is particularly worrying that people may fail to implement adequate hand washing techniques to protect themselves and their families from foodborne illness and communicable diseases. It is imperative that hands are thoroughly washed and dried in order to prevent the spread of pathogenic bacteria.”
The ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University provides food and drink businesses in Wales with technical, operational and commercial support to enable them to compete more effectively.