Food Industry

Dangerously low hand hygiene compliance in the food industry

Whenever we go to a restaurant, we assume that those handling food products also employ proper hand hygiene techniques.  In any food environment, cooks or food processors encounter raw foods and perishable ingredients that can easily spread germs and pathogens, if they are not handled with care. We wanted to look at the recommendations for hand hygiene in restaurants and their effectiveness, and see how closely these guidelines are followed.

FDA Guidelines

Outside of restaurants specific policies, anyone preparing food in the United States should adhere to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) guidelines and recommendations for proper hand hygiene, specifically in the FDA Food Code. Along with washing hands with soap and warm water for 30 seconds before handling food, the FDA also advises that hands be washed after eating, drinking, using tobacco, coughing, sneezing, using tissue, preparing raw animal products, handling dirty equipment and touching the body (such as scratching your nose).1 The FDA guidelines were developed after evidence was found that suggested a substantial proportion of foodborne illness outbreaks are caused by food contaminated by food workers.

Restaurant Compliance Study

Understanding hand hygiene compliance is necessary when assessing ways to reduce the spread of pathogens and germs. We looked at a study conducted by the Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net), which investigates factors contributing to foodborne illness, including food preparation practices and hand washing practices. This 2011 study looked at the compliance of restaurant workers in multiple restaurants across the United States and how their hand hygiene practices measured up to the FDA Food Code. While different regions and cities can have different rules and regulations for their specific areas and establishments, all restaurants had hand washing guidelines reasonably similar to the FDA’s.

Shocking Results

The study found most food-handling workers engaged in about 9 activities per hour where they would have needed to wash their hands according to FDA guidelines. In those cases, workers only washed their hands in about 27% of cases.2 Handwashing rates differed by activity and are described below.

  • Before preparing food: 41%
  • Before putting on gloves to prepare food: 30%
  • After eating, drinking, using tobacco, coughing, sneezing, using tissue: 26%
  • After preparing raw animal products: 23%
  • After handling dirty equipment: 23%
  • After touching body: 10%

Centre for Disease Control

Although the results of this study are alarming, there are some positives that can be taken from it. This information can be used to drive new processes and innovations that can help improve the compliance rate within the restaurant industry.

The good news is that there are many products that can help curb some of these low figures of compliance. Hardware available right now has been shown to decrease the spread of pathogens.

The Solutions

High visibility colours used on dispensers in the kitchen and other areas have been shown to improve compliance by more than 6%, by acting as a constant reminder to wash hands. Bracket solutions allow dispensers to be mounted in places where they are closest to the source of pathogens, thereby lowering the barrier to disinfection. Touchless dispensers have been shown to increase hand hygiene events by more than 50%. Electronic hand hygiene monitoring has also repeatedly been shown to be a useful tool in increasing hand hygiene compliance and targeted training techniques. OPHARDT hygiene offers comprehensive hand hygiene solutions, to break the chain of infection.

Visit our website to learn more.


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