The current issue of Food Safety magazine features a story about effective design. Those of us who have been around a while know this is not something new – but it has been refreshing to see restroom makeovers that include minimal touch. The question used to be – how do I get out of the bathroom without re-contaminating my hands? The answer has been to use the disposable towel to first dry hands, then turn off faucet, and the open the door handle. Many places have set trash containers by the door. I was surprised when a former student recalled my suggestion of dropping the used towel if a trash container was not available; management would figure out soon enough the need to have a trash can positioned there.
Even better has been the automation and clever design. Automatic sensors allow the water flow to stop without touching the dirty faucet handles. No-door entries avoid having to pull down a shirt sleeve or create another strategy for not touching the door handle. Some even have auto-flush toilets and lights. These are good things.
Now we need to learn to answer the question of “How do we encourage people to wash their hands properly?”
Remember the classic Guess Who song – No time? That song struck a chord while I helped with a charity dinner recently. While I know a thing or two about safe food handling practices and usually ‘do the right thing’, doing the right thing when there are a zillion other items needing your attention, is a bit more of a challenge.
It is easy to see why there are so many food borne illnesses due to poor personal hygiene and improper food handling. What is the answer?
A logical response is to plan – make sure people know what they are doing and can focus on one thing at a time. This will work for routine daily operations.
Is the answer to have more people working? With volunteer situations, this really depends – how willing are the volunteers to wash their hands properly or not sample the products? Do the volunteers know how to clean or use a thermometer properly? For routine operations, more labor means more money spent for employees – and with the competitive market, mandated hourly wages, and low profit margins – this can make or break a business. That said, it is a rare business that recovers from a headline about people getting sick from their restaurant so having enough folks on hand to work safely is preventative medicine.
The design of the kitchen could make a difference – having to navigate across the kitchen (dodging hot pans and sharp knives) to wash hands does not make it a user-friendly activity. Available sinks (with soap and disposable towels) for hand washing strategically located could make a difference.
Time for food safety has to be routine. You work time in your busy schedule to brush teeth and other routine hygiene practices (at least your co-workers hope you do)! It must be done for safe food handling – we can’t risk No Time for SafeFood©.