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Keep ‘em clean!

27 March 2017

Food Processing spoke to Paul Jakeway, marketing director at Deb UK, about hand hygiene issues.

Is hand hygiene really such a big cause for concern in the food processing sector?
According to the Food Standards Agency foodborne illnesses affect up to 5.5million people in the UK each year. Typically, food poisoning is caused by bacteria that is either present within the food or by bacteria on the food (cross-contamination). 

Research tells us that 80% of germs are transmitted by hands which makes hand hygiene a fundamental part of food safety and it is essential that food manufacturers implement and maintain a robust hand hygiene programme in the workplace. Thoroughly cleansing and sanitising the hands using the correct technique and at key stages throughout the day is a powerful defence against cross-contamination.

Despite this, estimates show that 39% of food-handling staff do not wash their hands after visiting the toilet, while 53% do not wash their hands before preparing food. This lack of compliance will have an impact on swab test failure rates and can have serious consequences for cross-contamination.

The consequences of cross-contamination are clear for the customer. However, it can also be costly for a business. It can result in food wastage, hefty fines and even the risk of closure. Bad publicity is also inevitable.

What are most important legislative requirements for hand hygiene in the UK, and how can food processing companies show that they comply?
The UK has strict regulations in place to prevent cross-contamination of food - the Food Hygiene Regulation 2006 and Food Safety Act 1990 (amended).  The legislation states that all food handlers are required to be supervised, instructed, and trained in food hygiene practices. It also states that they should observe good personal hygiene and routinely wash their hands when handling food.

Food Safety Act 1990 incorporates requirements for an adequate number of wash hand basins, dependent on the size and use of the premises, and that each basin must have hot and cold (or mixed) running water. Wash hand basins are required close to toilets and at strategic locations. Paper towel and liquid soap dispensers should also be provided at each wash hand basin. Non-hand operated taps are preferable but are not a requirement.

The day-to-day enforcement of the Food Safety Act is, in the main, the responsibility of environmental health practitioners, local authority trading standards officers and The Food Standards Agency in some instances. Officers can enter food premises unannounced to investigate possible offences; take samples of food and ingredients and to inspect food.

In the case of an offence under this Act being brought to court, it would be necessary for a food manufacturer to prove that it ‘took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of the offence by himself or by a person under his control’.

An integrated, maintained and monitored hand hygiene programme within a workplace is widely seen as one of the most effective ways to prevent the cross-contamination of food. A hand hygiene programme can work alongside a company’s own swab testing regime and a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system 

In a typical food processing environment where do you feel the main areas of weakness are, in relation to hand hygiene and how can this be rectified?
Assuming that hand washing and sanitising facilitates are adequate and correctly sited then there are several potential reasons behind poor hand hygiene in a food processing environment.  These include time pressures; forgetting to follow procedure; lack of training on correct procedure; skin disorders, such as dermatitis and unhygienic bulk fill dispensers. Research has shown that refillable bulk dispensers can leave hands with 25 times more bacteria after washing.

The use of appropriate products and training should address any weak points. Sealed cartridge dispensers, providing quick rinsing hand wash and cleansers will minimise impact on time and eliminate any contamination from the dispensers. The addition of pre-work creams and after-work creams helps combat any skin disorders. Finally, staff training on hand hygiene requirements and the correct hand washing and sanitising techniques, supported by guides and instructions/reminders at the point of use will raise awareness and help drive hand hygiene compliance.

Why has Deb become a Supporting Company Member of the Society of Food Hygiene and Technology (SOFHT)?
Deb has supported SOFHT as a corporate member for 10 years. It has helped us stay abreast of developments and issues within the food sector, enabling us to ensure that products and service specifically meet the sector's hand hygiene and skin care needs. SOFHT has proved valuable in Deb's development of specialist products and services for the food industry, and it will continue to do so. 

As a Supporting Company Member we can work more closely with SOFHT and its members, to share expertise and best practice, to help improve skin care behaviour and hand hygiene compliance in the industry.


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