Fighting Food Poisoning: One of The Most Important Things You Can Do
By Michael J. Beach, PhD, Associate Director for Healthy Water and Chief, Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC
What is one of the most important thing you can do to fight food poisoning? Here are a few hints:
- It takes only 20 seconds (if you do it the right way).
- It requires only 3 ingredients.
- Anyone can do it, even very young children.
The answer is Wash Your Hands. Over and over again, studies have shown that handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness—including foodborne illness.
Wash Your Hands the Right Way
When you wash your hands the right way, it takes only 20 seconds and requires only three ingredients: running water, soap, and something to dry your hands (a clean towel or air).
Here’s how to do it:
- Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
- Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.
And here’s when to do it:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal or animal waste
- After touching garbage
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
What About Hand Sanitizers?
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them. But, if soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer.
Important: Hand sanitizers are not effective if your hands are visibly dirty.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.
Always use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Here’s how to use hand sanitizer properly:
- Apply the product to the palm of one hand.
- Rub your hands together.
- Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.
For more information on handwashing, check out these resources:
restaurant servers need to have this drummed into them; watch them at a diner and see them clean a table, then take orders at another, and deliver items without washing their hands; at least some managers use bus people who remove soiled items from tables, but do they wash their hands before setting other tables with silverware and napkins?
Tell that to the physicians. They don't always wash their hands between patients. Also, tests have shown, that if you ever find yourself in a situation where there is no soap, just run your hands under the water and scub your hands using your knuckles. Friction cleans off as well as soap, but you wouldn't want to do that all the time as soap is more gentle.