Restaurants Must Enact Hand Washing Policies To Protect Patrons

Posted on December 17, 2013

Last week, we reported on the somewhat disturbing findings compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upon examining restaurants across the country, including right here in California.  They discovered situations in which meat thermometers weren’t being used to verify the temperature of items, workers were coming in to work with an illness exhibited by diarrhea or vomiting, and hand washing did not always take place after the handling of raw meat.  It’s enough to give any restaurant patron pause before they dig into a dish.

The situation is unfortunate, as any restaurant that neglects to take the proper precautions when handling food is leaving itself open to potential liability, especially if their inappropriate actions lead to a slew of foodborne illnesses that officials are able to trace back to their facility.  Thankfully, restaurant owners can protect themselves and their guests by instilling a sense of food safety in all workers, and to do so, they should think about utilizing some of the information made available from the National Restaurant Association.

Prevention should begin with understanding those situations where workers often forget to or purposefully fail to wash their hands in an adequate manner.  Some of these should be obvious prompts for hand-washing, which makes the fact that cleanliness is not taking place somewhat maddening.

For instance, if someone uses the restroom, he or she must wash their hands, and there should be a policy in place to enforce this rule.  The same goes for any situation in which a person is going to be touching raw meat.  Prior to making contact, hands should be washed, and when the activity is through, they should be washed again so that potential pathogens don’t transfer from the meat to other surfaces or food items.

Workers who handle money shouldn’t be able to just switch to food preparation at the drop of a hat; they must wash their hands, as money can be a breeding ground for potential bacteria.  On a similar note, someone responsible for cleaning tables or taking out the garbage should wash their hands if they’re then expected to handle food.  Any type of face touching, especially that which occurs in conjunction with sneezing or other activities that produce fluid, should also necessitate a trip to the sink.

The report is smart to point out that the same sink used to wash dishes or work with food is not acceptable as a hand washing station.  Otherwise, the contaminants from someone’s hand can transfer elsewhere.

When it comes to the actual washing of hands, make sure that soap and water is available for use and encourage employees to take 15 seconds to really get the soap into their skin, especially under the fingernails.  Dry after.  In this manner, the threat of foodborne illnesses is reduced dramatically.

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