Personal Hygiene Rules for Food Handlers
If you work in the restaurant industry, personal hygiene isn't just a choice, it's a must. The hazards that cause foodborne illnesses and food poisoning lurk around every corner. The best way to prevent them from affecting your customers is to ensure that anyone who cooks, touches, or serves food maintains high-levels of personal hygiene.
How Does Bacteria Get Passed From Person to Person?Everyone, including healthy people, posses certain types of bacteria, and some of the bacteria can cause others to become extremely ill. These bacterial variations get passed on when an infected person touches food that the customer digests. If causing your customers to contract foodborne illnesses wasn't scary enough, because of its importance, restaurant inspectors can pass or fail a restaurant for lack of compliance. Now that you have an understanding of the importance of personal hygiene, let's dive into some tips for maintaining it!
Hand WashingMost likely, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of personal hygiene for food handlers is hand washing. Hand washing is essential for serving contaminant-free food. When you're washing your hands, use soap and warm water—and don't stop at your hands! Make sure to clean the back of your hands, wrists, between your fingers, and under your fingernails. Once you've finished washing your hands, you need to dry them with a clean towel, paper towel, or air dryer. Wash your hands frequently, especially after:
- Going to the bathroom
- Handling raw food
- Touching your face
- Going to the front of the house.
ClothingDirty clothing is one of the leading bacteria carriers. Clothing can quickly and easily transport bacteria from one place to the other as you move around the building. When you show up for your shift, wear clean clothing, not the same uniform from the day before. If your uniform or clothing gets heavily soiled or is in contact with raw meat, your employer should provide you with a replacement uniform. Anyone handling food should never wear jewelry because it can easily fall into food. Additionally, jewelry can transport bacteria just as easily as clothing. You also need to cover your hair. For instance, you can use hairnets and tie long hair back. If you have facial hair, you might also need to cover it with a hairnet. Similarly to gloves, hairnets are meant to be disposable and should only be used once before throwing them away.
HealthAs we mentioned above, healthy people can transfer harmful bacteria to the food they're preparing. However, the risk of foodborne illness increases when employees are sick. If you have flu-like symptoms, a cold, or eye infection, you need to stay away from work until your symptoms have stopped for at least 48 hours. If you start to feel sick during work, tell your supervisor right away so you can leave. If you miss work because you're sick, you might have to provide a doctor's note to confirm you're no longer ill and can return to work. Illnesses aren't the only thing food handlers have to avoid! You'll need to cover cuts and sores with appropriate bandages and gloves. If you are experiencing any sort of wound infection or discharge, you must be immediately removed from the kitchen or food-handling area.
General Best PracticesAlthough we've covered handwashing, clothing, and health, there is still so much more that goes into personal hygiene for food handlers. Here are some miscellaneous personal hygiene guidelines to follow when you're working with food:
- Avoid tasting food with your fingers or a utensil that is then returned to the food
- Don't chew gum while cooking or handling any food
- Stay away from foods that don't need to be cooked like salads or cooked meat unless you're serving them. This will help prevent contamination.
- If you sneeze, touch your face or body, or smoke, you need to thoroughly wash your hands before continuing to prepare food.
- Sweat happens, but if you experience while cooking, wipe it away with a cloth and then wash your hands thoroughly.
- Frequently change your apron or other protective clothing when moving from one work area to another.