During online food safety courses, students learn that hand washing prevents the spread of food-borne illness. From time to time, a student asks what role hand sanitizers play in killing bacteria, and if hand sanitizer benefits food service workers.
Safe Food Handling Practices and Hand Sanitizers
The Minnesota Department of Health allows for hand sanitizer use in food production facilities. However, hand sanitizers must not replace proper hand washing in any situation. Effective hand sanitizers kill viruses and bacteria, but only hand washing removes dirt, grime and grease from underneath fingernails or the natural crevices in human skin. Just to review the safe food handling practices, proper hand washing involves:
- Washing under hot water
- The use of plenty of soap
- Scrubbing for at least 20 seconds
If the Department of Health rules state that all food service workers must wash their hands after handling raw meat, using the bathroom or doing anything that contaminates their hands, when can a hand sanitizer be used?
If you feel the need to use a hand sanitizer to kill bacteria, you must wash your hands immediately after use and before handling food. Washing your hands after using a sanitizer will not negate the virus killing effects. In fact, washing your hands removes fragrances and other chemicals that exist in commercially produced hand sanitizers than could make your guests sick.
Finally, the food code allows hand sanitizers in situations where product is not handled by hand. This occurs in retail or grocery situations where food product is sealed or in instances where utensils are the only means of food handling.
The use of hand sanitizers is only one of many concerns that many professionals ask for clarification on food code regulations. If you have any other situations you’d like us to cover, please leave a question in the comments section below.