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The Importance of Proper Handwashing and Sanitation to Prevent the Spread of Viruses in Food Facilities

Viruses that affect workers and customers can spread quickly through a food facility.

The Importance of Proper Handwashing and Sanitation to Prevent the Spread of Viruses in Food Facilities

March 20, 2020

Help protect employees and customers from becoming infected during a crisis by following infection mitigation guidelines from trusted sources such as National Institutes of Health (NIH)Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). It is important you incorporate measures now to prevent the spread of viruses in your food facility.

There are many practices you and your employees can adopt to minimize the spread of a virus. UL recommends the following preventative measures to incorporate into your business:

  • Stay home if you are sick with any symptoms such as fever, coughing or the wide array of acute gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Frequently wash hands in a proper and approved manner
  • Avoid touching face, mouth and eyes
  • Increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting food facility surfaces, especially high “touch-point” surfaces. This helps to prevent cross-contamination and infection if contaminated hands come in contact with mouth, nose, eyes and face

Handwashing is one of the most important steps we can take to prevent the spread of viruses. The CDC recommends cleaning hands in a specific way to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Experts recommend following these steps to ensure you are properly washing your hands:

  1. Dispense a paper towel, so it is ready before wetting hands
  2. Wet hands with warm (100F/38C) water
  3. Apply soap
  4. Rub hands vigorously together for 20 seconds, paying attention to get between the fingers, the backs of the hands and the fingertips
  5. Rinse hands under warm water to remove soap
  6. Dry hands with the paper towel
  7. Turn off faucet with a paper towel
  8. If the restroom has a door, use the paper towel to contact door/door handle surfaces to exit
  9. Throw away paper towel in a trash receptacle

When you work in a food facility, it imperative that you increase your handwashing frequency to help better prevent the spread of illness. Experts suggest taking the following steps to ensure proper hand hygiene:

  • Employees must wash their hands after any activity which may result in contamination of the hands: 
    • Immediately before engaging in food preparation including working with exposed food, clean equipment, utensils, and unwrapped single-service and single-use articles
    • After touching exposed human body parts, such as arms
    • After using the restroom
    • After caring for or handling service animals or aquatic animals
    • After coughing, sneezing, using a handkerchief, disposable tissue, using tobacco, eating or drinking
    • After handling soiled equipment or utensils
    • After removing soiled and contaminated items during food preparation to prevent cross-contamination when changing tasks
    • When switching between working with raw food and working with ready-to-eat-food
    • Before donning gloves to initiate a task that involves working with food
    • After engaging in other activities that contaminate the hands

Facility sanitization is another essential aspect in preventing the spread of illnesses. You must make sure the chemicals used are mixed correctly and applied to surface areas for the correct time to clean the area effectively.  We recommend you follow these steps to clean and sanitize a food facility properly:

  • Mix cleaning solutions, especially sanitizers, per the manufacturer’s label
  • Do not mix incompatible chemicals to avoid producing dangerous off-gases
  • Be careful to not dilute properly mixed chemicals
  • Ensure proper contact times for the sanitizers to do their job
  • Go above and beyond in providing detailed and frequent cleaning of high touch-point surfaces such as:
    • Door handles in the facility or door surfaces where hand contact would be common
    • All restroom surfaces commonly used by staff and customers
    • Touch screens or push pads at the point of payment
    • Pens that are used by multiple guests to sign receipts or staff to write orders
    • Keyboards
    • Light switches
    • Remote controls for establishments with televisions
  • Consider washing, rinsing and sanitizing these high touch surfaces after each use

The recommendations for food facilities concerned with controlling or preventing the spread of a virus were gathered from:

For more information on how you can protect your employees and customers from becoming infected during a crisis, contact us directly.