The experts say it only takes 15 to 20 seconds of vigorous hand washing with soap and water to effectively remove bacteria which can cause infection. A small amount of time relative to the detrimental impact on hygiene, safety, reputation and the income of a food service operation, which can be created by ineffective hand washing.
More than 30,000 UK restaurants failed food hygiene inspections according to recently released Food Standards Agency data. Recent checks were failed by more than 7,000 takeaways and 8,000 restaurants who should know better. The cost of poor hygiene practice doesn’t stop at the £160 fee for a reassessment visit, but the long-term impact on the food outlet; 61% of consumers refuse to visit any type of restaurant with a low food hygiene rating. Hand washing is a legal requirement in the food service and hospitality industry and is the most effective method of prevention against the spread of bacteria and pathogens.
The owner of Indian Restaurant Chai Wallah, in Stockton-on-Tees has been sentenced to prison for eight food safety offences.Rob Llewellyn, the principal environmental health officer at Stockton council, said: “It’s one of those where you walk in and it’s in an exceptionally poor condition. It was filthy and not in good repair. From a hygiene perspective, it was among the worst I’ve ever seen.” He spoke of multiple offences at the restaurant, including a “lack of handwashing facilities.”
Manufacturer of hygienic hand solutions for the food service and hospitality industry, Mechline knows that inadequate hand washing facilities and poor staff personal hygiene are regularly cited in prosecutions, this is why they produce products to promote the desired standards in hand hygiene in food service.
There are clear legal requirements that all food service operations must meet in a working kitchen environment. All commercial kitchens must provide enough handwash basins for staff to wash their hands. Handwash basins must serve clean hot and cold running water, ideally mixed to allow for a comfortable and consistent temperature.
A huge hygiene breakthrough in the commercial kitchen environment is the use of electronic taps, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) insists upon ‘a supply of warm water for handwashing at a comfortable temperature through a single tap, which is preferably not hand operated.’ Eliminating the need to touch taps, for example; where cleaning hands and then touching the tap lever or handle to switch off the running water, reduces the potential for cross-contamination. Electronic taps such as the Delabie range from Mechline have a built in automatic motion sensor. The water can be pre-set to temperature and flow to ensure that no contact is needed from the hands at all to operate the tap. The added benefit of such taps is that they can be set to flow for a specific time, reducing the potential for wasted water and minimising the risk of the tap being left running by mistake potentially causing an overflow.
Mechline also produces a range (BaSix) of handwash basins, with optional hands-free operation via knee valves or a push-front panel. This allows the user to refrain from touching taps or the sink area with their hands, particularly useful after preparing raw ingredients, thus minimising the potential for bacteria lurking in the handwash area.
It is also a legal obligation of a food service operator to correctly train food handlers in hygiene awareness, to include the correct use of equipment, recommended handwashing practise, reinforcing the importance of handwashing.
The figures speak for themselves, 39% of employees admitted to not washing their hands after visiting the toilet (FSA – Catering Workers Hygiene Survey) and 53% of employees confessed they did not always wash their hands before preparing food (FSA – Catering Workers Hygiene Survey).
Roberts concludes: “Knowledge must be shared across the business highlighting the huge significance of regular and effective handwashing. The evolvement of products available in the hospitality and food service equipment marketplace have been introduced to support best practise. The responsibility lies with business owners to make sure the correct facilities are available and education is provided for each and every member of staff entering or leaving the kitchen.”