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Food Safety Focus (179th Issue, June 2021) – Food Incident Highlight

Washing Hands with Liquid Soap or Cleaning Hands with Hand Sanitisers?

Maintaining good hand hygiene is important during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many opt to use hand sanitisers that are readily carried around, it is preferable to wash hands with liquid soap when coming to food preparation. For non-food handlers, using 70-80% alcohol-based handrubs could be an alternative when hands are not visibly soiled.

A food handler's hands may be soiled with grease and bacteria when they come in direct contact with foods in the kitchen. Washing hands with liquid soap and water for at least 20 seconds is an effective measure for removing dirt and foodborne pathogens. In contrast, hand sanitisers work less effectively on visibly dirty or greasy hands. They cannot effectively remove certain pathogens such as norovirus and hepatitis A virus.

It is advised to wash hands properly with liquid soap and water before handling foods. Furthermore, drying hands with clean paper towels is important to remove drips and reduce the risk of re-contamination by dirty towels.