Hand Hygiene and Food Safety

hand hygience food safety

Personal hygiene, hand washing, employee illness awareness and training are key factors in limiting the transfer of disease from known sources of contamination.

Unwashed hands are considered the most significant pathway to pathogen transfer and food safety experts advise hand washing procedures should be implemented and strictly monitored.

Importance of Food Safety Training
Education and training are vital elements of a food safety program in all sectors of the food industry.  In any organization, however small, the instruction provided should ensure that all employees understand the basic principles of food safety and their own responsibilities in that respect within an organization.

Food-handling staff should receive instruction in food safety and personal hygiene and should be required to undergo a test of their knowledge of the subject.  Refresher courses should be given periodically through employment.  Particular attention should be drawn to the need to report illness to the supervisor as soon as it occurs.

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Hand washing, when done correctly, is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.  Good hand washing technique is easy to learn and can significantly reduce the spread of infectious diseases. High risk areas such as food preparation require the highest level of compliance.

Hand-Washing Procedure

When teaching hand washing remember to always follow best practice:

  • Place your hands together under water (warm if possible)
  • Apply soap
  • Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds
  • Wash hands thoroughly, including wrists, palms, back of hands and under the fingernails
  • Clean dirt from under the fingernails
  • Rinse the soap from your hands
  • Dry hands completely with clean toweling (good quality, absorbent paper towel helps to remove germs)
  • Pat your skin rather than rubbing to avoid chapping and cracking
  • If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer

Common sense indicates that hands should be washed before handling food, but there are many other occasions when hands must be washed when working in a food-processing environment.


CDC Free Hand Hygiene Courses

The CDC offers two free education courses on hand hygiene.

A. Hand Hygiene & Other Standard Precautions to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections (2005)
This course is designed to close existing knowledge gaps in the healthcare population, which contribute to low hand hygiene and glove use adherence across U.S. healthcare settings.

Take the Course: Go to to course launch webpage

Hand Hygiene CDC Course



B. Supplemental Course: Hand Hygiene, Glove Use, and Preventing Transmission of C. difficile (2017) – WD2703

This course is a supplement to the above course. Free continuing education is available and this course is SCORM compliant.

To receive free continuing education (CE):

Fees: No fees are charged for CDC’s CE activities.

Hand Hygiene CDC Course


Additional Resources on Hand Hygiene