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A helping hand for hygiene

23 May 2014

Healthy hand care habits are a valuable line of defence against the spread of infections in food production settings and are a crucial part of any HACCP system. However, to encourage compliance, formulations and dispensing systems need to be effective and pleasant to use says Suzanne De Maine, european marketing manager for GOJO Europe.

Each link in the food production chain shares equal responsibility for the safety and hygiene of the end result and just one weak link can result in problems - in terms of future business and brand loyalty. Getting hygiene right is vital, and one of the key elements is a relatively simple premise – that of good hand hygiene.

Good hand hygiene systems are not just nice to have ‘extras’ for food processing companies – they are essential to the smooth running of the business. If just one employee does not follow proper hand hygiene procedures the entire workforce – and the company – will be put at risk.

Cross contamination of food products is not the only issue to be considered. Absenteeism through illness can damage profitability, through reduced productivity. It also affects the level of service provided, and erodes customer confidence and satisfaction.

HACCP at hand
Every company involved in food production should have stringent HACCP processes in place, identifying the ‘critical points’ in a process where food safety problems (or ‘hazards’) could arise, and putting steps in place to prevent things going wrong. 

There are many opportunities for cross contamination to take place in a food processing plant and this has the potential to cause untold damage. Ensuring that effective, easy-to-use hand hygiene products are readily available to use at all the ‘critical points’, food processing companies can guard against these risks, while demonstrating a commitment to safeguarding the personal health and well-being of employees.

The right products and systems can play an invaluable role in the promotion of healthy hand hygiene behaviour. However, to be successful, they need to combine good aesthetics, accessibility and ease of use, while being equipped with pleasant and effective hygienically advanced formulations which make  people want to them.

Formulation and functionality matter
Giving food production workers access to products and systems that they enjoy using can only help towards achieving a greater success rate of reducing infections and cross contamination through compliance. The high frequency with which many food production workers have to clean their hands means that, unless they can do so without damaging them, compliance will suffer.

Efficacy is, of course, an important issue, so only those companies who can prove the effectiveness of their soaps or hand sanitisers against germs through independent scientific testing should be considered. Similarly, formulations that have been tested and passed in accordance with international food taint testing standard EN 4120:2007, provide assurance that they are safe for use in food processing establishments. However, the best products will combine this with soothing, moisturising ingredients that are gentle on the skin, meaning that employees are able to use the products regularly.

Aesthetics also play a valuable role in encouraging people to develop healthy hand hygiene habits. Dispensers that look good and are easy to use, and which are sited at both key and convenient locations are important.

The Food Standards Agency offers advice on good hand hygiene for businesses and consumers on its website, and in its document: ‘E.coli 0157 – control of cross contamination’, devotes a whole section to effective hand washing practice. The guidance recommends that hands should not come into contact with taps after they have been washed.

Touch free technology is proving popular in food environments. They can intuitively sense the presence of hands and dispense the correct amount of product every time. The fact that they are ‘touch-free’ increases their hygiene rating. Taps that turn themselves off automatically are also an option and can also help to reduce water consumption.

The right refills 
Refilling dispensers is another important consideration, as this can have an effect on hygiene and the time it takes to clean and maintain your dispensers.

Open reservoir dispensers and refillable hand soap can contribute to cross-contamination problems and compromise a company’s HACCP programme. It’s not always practical for maintenance operatives to thoroughly clean and sanitise dispensers each time they need to be refilled, so this increases the risk of bacteria growing inside and being spread to unsuspecting users. A study conducted by microbiologists at the University of Arizona found that 25% of bulk soap dispensers contain soap with unsafe levels of bacteria.

If a refill is sanitary sealed it means that the product inside is protected from contamination. Its hygiene and health benefits are therefore obvious – but they also offer time-savings for maintenance staff because they are and quicker to replace.

Investing in the best hand hygiene solutions offers many benefits. It protects the business and demonstrates commitment to improving the well-being of employees, provides peace of mind to customers and safe-guards the consumer.

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