This website uses cookies primarily for visitor analytics. Certain pages will ask you to fill in contact details to receive additional information. On these pages you have the option of having the site log your details for future visits. Indicating you want the site to remember your details will place a cookie on your device. To view our full cookie policy, please click here. You can also view it at any time by going to our Contact Us page.

Don't wash your hands of hygiene

17 January 2012

Susan Werro from The Society of Food Hygiene Technology (SOFHT) looks at how the food industry can better its hand-washing training to improve food safety

Food manufacturers like to believe that they have hand hygiene under control. It is a basic part of our lives and a pre-requisite in the majority of HACCP studies.

But the reality is that poor hand washing facilities and poor personal hygiene are contributory factors in 17% of foodborne outbreaks (source data – Health Protection Agency (HPA) eFOSS Report 2: Foodborne Outbreaks in 2009, published May 2010). In fact, poor facilities and hygiene contribute to 170,000 cases of food poisoning per year at a cost to the food industry of £25 million per year.

What should the best approaches be to keep the issue in check and to ensure that current methods are not failing the consumer?

Food manufacturers are legally required to provide an adequate number of washbasins, suitably located and designed for cleaning hands, provided with hot and cold running water, materials for cleaning hands and for hygienic drying (Regulation (EC) no 852/2004 On the Hygiene of Foodstuffs).

Within this regulation it is also stipulated that food handlers are trained and / or supervised as appropriate, so factories produce a hand hygiene policy and train employees as part of their induction. Evidence from the HPA as outlined earlier suggests that food industry training and procedures are not sufficient to prevent foodborne infections in the consumer.

So what are food manufacturers doing wrong and what can we do to improve the situation?
When a new food handler starts in a business, the initial introduction to personal hygiene including hand hygiene is during the induction training. This is followed up with the appropriate Food Safety Level 2 within a set time.

In the case of induction programmes, the new food handler is invariably shown the hand hygiene procedure by a trainer or line leader or, at worst, by a fellow worker when going into the food production area for the first time. The training at this point can vary from detailed and informative, to a brief walk through with little explanation.

I would argue that this is not the best time to for people to learn about the importance of hand hygiene procedures and that there are better methods of training. New methods include giving the new food handler a set of questions that will provide them all of the information they need for their induction programme.

They are then empowered to find the answers to these questions themselves. Trainers can then verify that the new member of staff has found the correct piece of information and that they understand the importance of it in their role.

Another barrier to hand hygiene is the widespread problem of occupational dermatitis. The food manufacture and catering industries account for 10% of all occupational dermatitis in the UK causing some 13,000 lost working days (information from ‘Occupational dermatitis in the catering and food industries, HSE Information sheet, Food Sheet No. 17’).

Causes include water, soap, alcohol sanitisers, detergents and chemicals. But about 40% of cases in the food industry are caused by contact with foods e.g. sugar, fruit, vegetables, spices, fish, meats. Both chemicals used for hand washing and availability of hand washing facilities are key in managing this risk.

The correct choice of hand-washing products, designed to control microbial loading on the skin surface which comes into contact with food or food preparation surfaces, coupled with the right kind of hand drying facilities can help to reduce this problem.

With the high levels of foodborne infections being associated with poor personal hygiene or facilities it might be a good opportunity for food manufacturers to review their hand hygiene procedures and make improvements.

But remember, the people who know why hand hygiene procedures are not being followed are in your business – just go and ask them!

SOFHT is staging a Hygiene Masterclass covering the important area of hand hygiene on 22 March 2012 at the Ricoh Arena. For more information contact SOFHT on tel: 01827 872500 or visit

Print this page | E-mail this page


Article image Is your cleaning equipment clean?

The ability to clean your cleaning equipment is critical to ensuring food safety and quality. Choosing hygienically designed cleaning equipment is, therefore, an important consideration, says Debra SmithFull Story...

Article image Kimberly-Clark Professional launches its highest capacity manual rolled hand towel dispensing system

Kimberly-Clark Professional launches the SCOTT® MAX System, its highest capacity hand drying system for hygiene compliance and high usage efficiencies in food processing facilities.  Full Story...

Get ready for a hygiene revolution with Vikan’s ULTRA SAFE TECHNOLOGY.

Detectable rubber bands from Detectamet help reduce contamination

Moody offers customers 24/7 online access to heat exchanger test certificates


Article image Get ready for a hygiene revolution with Vikan’s ULTRA SAFE TECHNOLOGY.

The drive to provide innovative solutions and the use of advanced engineering are behind Vikan’s launch of a revolutionary new range ULTRA SAFE TECHNOLOGY. This  innovation will take the cleaning tools used in hygiene critical areas in food and beverage manufacturing to the highest  level.Full Story...

Article image Moody offers customers 24/7 online access to heat exchanger test certificates

Moody Heat Exchangers has launched an on-line web-based portal to allow customers to access their plate heat exchanger integrity test certificates and service reports 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.Full Story...

Essential information on food safety & quality certification

Analyst advises on the importance of traceability in the food industry

100% horsemeat found in lasagnes


Article image Artificial intelligence in the food industry

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been heralded as the next best thing since sliced bread. But what might it really mean for the food industry and what are the implications? Stephanie Duvault-Alexandre explains. Full Story...

Article image Reduce, reuse, recover

Taking simple steps to reduce water consumption or access wastewater treatment technology can help change the way this valuable resource in managed, says Simon EmmsFull Story...

A recipe for continuous improvement success

Added value: the best way to deliver ROI

What role does refrigeration play in the supply chain?