I love life!

Hi, I am Jo and this is my blog about my life. Here you will find entries on cooking, gardening, food safety and the interesting things happening in my search for an inexpensive and healthy way of living. My home is located in North Florida and I am relearning how to take care of myself at almost 50. This is the deep South so my garden and season may be a bit different than yours. I look forward to seeing what you have to say as time passes. Read on and have a beautiful day!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Food Safety and Handwashing.... Really?

Food Safety is my day job and most people do not ever really stop to think about it's implications on day to day life. And why should you? After all grocery stores sell you wholesome food, in a brightly lit clean environment with a tantalizing array of brightly colored displays and delectable aromas wafting through the stores.  Everything is neat and clean and sanitary. If it was not they would not be able to sell it. Right?

This is the first entry regarding food safety I am posting and chances are it truly won't be the last. Food Safety covers a broad array of concepts, practices and laws that range from great for public health safety to simply bizarre.  Everyday, I inspect facilities that retail, prepare, manufacture and wholesale food. My job is to try to regulate an industry that has been lobbying hard in almost every state for the absolute minimum standards for the food you put on your table at every meal.

What I have learned is that most places try to do the best to make sure things are done as required. I have witnessed many facilities attempting to comply but the upper level management tends to tie the employees hands- mainly in cost cutting measures.  A great example of this would be a grocery chain that bonuses store management and department heads to keep labor at a set percentage of sales. Managers then implement labor saving measures such as; employees having less time to close at the end of an evening or scheduling one less person to prep foods or cut meat. Thus they are cutting staff while expecting the volume of store sales to not only stay even but normally there is a projected increase month to month and year over year.  Do you think an $8.00 an hour store deli clerk or meat cutter is going to clean the equipment and facilities properly if they now have an hour less to accomplish the task? Maybe they will take the time to properly clean the areas of the store you do not see but I doubt it.

I am not trying to freak anyone out. There are stories out there that would curl your hair! Raising awareness of food and our food system is my goal. No matter where you live there are ways to protect yourself from food borne illness and get a better quality of food for your table.    

Each time I write about Food Safety I will try to address a different topic that can help you make good food choices.

Today's topic is hand washing. That is right HAND WASHING. Does it look like I am yelling - I am!  How does hand washing affect food safety? It is the absolute best way to prevent illness associated with food.
Your hands are a major carrier of pathogens. You touch door knobs, grocery carts, yourself and each other. Ok, that does not sound right but you get the picture. Everyone should wash their hands- and frequently. Very frequently. Specifically:
After using the restroom
After handling trash or refuse
After smoking
After working outside
Especially after handling money
After coughing or sneezing
After eating or drinking
After handling unclean dishes and utensils
After handling raw meats and/or poultry
Before cooking
Before doing dishes
Before eating    
Before handling ready to eat food products
Before handling utensils and dinnerware
and others I may not have thought to address but could be listed as and any time hands become contaminated.
and if you work in food processing prior to donning single use gloves and when changing single use gloves.

Why is this so serious? E-coli is carried in the fecal matter if you do not wash your hands or do not wash you hands PROPERLY after using the restroom you will transfer that pathogen to all you touch. Do you want your child or grandchild to become infected if you are a carrier and unaware? Salmonella is present in most raw eggs and raw poultry. Heating salmonella kills it BUT it can stay on your hands if you do not wash properly. (We will discuss food contact surface sanitation later). When you are sick with a cold or flu a virus can be easily transmitted through coughing or sneezing, even simply touching your face can transfer a virus. If you are in the deli and an employee does not wash their hands prior to handling foods that do not need additional cooking- do not accept the food.

How do you wash your hands properly? Water at roughly 100 to 110 degrees- roughly 10 degrees warmer than body temperature. Soap. Liquid soap is best. A sanitary towel to dry with. Again paper towels are best but in the home a towel designated for only hands changed daily will suffice.
1)  Turn on water and run hands under water to get wet.
2) Add soap and work up a lather, working soap between fingers and on tops of hands.
3) Wash hands and arms up to elbows if exposed and  if processing food, to wrists otherwise.
4) Continue washing for at least 20 seconds. The age old sing "Happy Birthday" twice works here. If you sing out loud you may get funny looks but it is fun in public places.
5) Rinse hands thoroughly.
6) Dry hands and use paper towel to turn off faucet (if available). If there is an air dryer you have no choice but to turn off the water then dry your hands.

Why did I take the time to write this out? Everyday I see people not washing hands or not doing it properly in restrooms and in food service establishments.  I know that is not you but you buy food and the food employees need to was their hands.  If you are cooking at home washing your hands is the best way to keep you family safe.  Oh, hand sanitizer is good but DOES NOT replace hand washing. Use it only if hand washing is not an option. It does not remove dirt and contaminates.

So that is it...Hand washing is your first line of defense against food illness. Any questions?    

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