A large proportion of foodborne illness in the UK is considered preventable, and simply the result of poor hygiene practices.
While much investment and research is focused on making foods safer in the early stages of the food chain (eg vaccinating hens to prevent salmonella in eggs), the role of food handlers/preparers is a crucial point of risk and potential intervention.
Practices can render previously uncontaminated foods unsafe to eat - through cross-contamination; and contaminated foods safe to eat - i.e. via thorough cooking. The latter is particularly important when handling food products that have high contamination rates at the point of retail. For example, 70% of UK supermarket chickens are Campylobacter positive.
Approximately 60% of foodborne disease outbreaks are linked to eating establishments and commercial caterers, rather than the home.
Multiple risk factors for foodborne illness are commonly implicated in outbreaks including inadequate heat treatment (50%), inappropriate storage (45%), cross-contamination (39%) and infected food handlers (12%). Domestic kitchens are also a significant source of sporadic foodborne disease cases.
Inadequate heat treatment 50%
Inappropriate storage 45%
Infected food handlers 12%
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - in the USA - around 40% of foodborne illnesses are transmitted via germs on our hands. And a staggering 80% of communicable diseases are transferred by touch alone.
Like most things, good hand hygiene starts at home, and hygiene habits begin in childhood. Children are naturally curious and explore the world using their hands, so these can become a breeding ground for germs and bacteria. Recent research from Initial Hygiene found that even when children had a low swab count (under 500) on their hands, they still had 47% more than adults.
According to research in 2012 by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), faecal bacteria is present on 26% of hands in the UK, 14% of banknotes and 10% of credit cards.
Initial has found that as many as 1 in 4 office workers don’t wash their hands after using the toilet.
And UK office cleaning company SMC Premier found that only 61% of UK office workers surveyed usually washed their hands properly with warm water and soap after using the toilet.
Even more shocking - 35% of people admit to browsing the internet on their phones while using the toilet. This leads to cross- contamination.
Due to Covid-19, good hand hygiene has become more critical than ever before.
Handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the first line of defence in stopping the spread of infection.
We want to help you improve compliance in your homes and workplaces. Encourage consistently thorough handwashing habits from all your staff, customers and visitors, and ensure hand hygiene is front-of-mind, with our clear, friendly positive signage.
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