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Food Hygiene and Hand Washing

Personal Hygiene for Food Handlers

Food handlers have specific legal responsibilities related to their health and hygiene under Food Safety Standard 3.2.2.

Who is a food handler?

Anyone who works in a food business and who handles food, surfaces that are likely to be in contact with food, such as cutlery, plates, bowls, or chopping boards is a food handler. A food handler may be involved in many roles including cooking, preparing, serving, packing, processing, transporting, delivering, thawing, displaying and storing food.

Employer responsibilities

A food business must:
• ensure food handlers do not handle food if there is a possibility of contamination
• maintain easily accessible hand washing facilities and supplies of hot running water, soap and single-use paper towels
• ensure all food handlers have appropriate skills and knowledge in food safety and food hygiene. This can be done either on-the-job or via formal training.

Hygiene Practices

The personal hygiene practices and cleanliness of a food handler is critical to limiting the risk of food contamination. It is the responsibility of the food business proprietor to ensure that food handlers have sufficient skills and knowledge to do their jobs.

Food handlers must be aware that they have the following responsibilities:
• take reasonable measures to prevent contamination of food or surfaces that are likely to come into contact with food, by anything:
- from their body e.g. hair, bodily secretions and fingernails; or
- they are wearing e.g. clothes, jewellery, hair accessories, bandages.
• do whatever is reasonable to stop unnecessary contact with ready-to-eat foods, such as salads or cooked meat;
• wear clean outer clothing, appropriate for their position;
• make sure bandages or dressings on any exposed parts of the body are covered with a waterproof covering;
• not eat over unprotected food or surfaces likely to come in contact with food;
• not sneeze, blow or cough over unprotected food or surfaces likely to come into contact with food; and
• not spit, smoke or use tobacco or similar preparations where food is handled;

Health of food handlers

Foodborne disease account for a significant number of food poisoning cases. For this reason any food handler with symptoms or a diagnosis of an illness (such as vomiting, diarrhoea, fever or jaundice, sore throat with fever, infected skin lesions, discharges from eyes, nose or ears or a known diagnosis of a food-borne disease or fever) must:
• report that they are ill to their employer or supervisor
• not handle food if there is a reasonable likelihood of food contamination as a result of the illness
• notify a supervisor if they know or suspect they may have contaminated food.

It is recommended that food handlers who are experiencing the above symptoms are to be excluded from handling food and equipment that is to come into contact with food until their illness has subsided. If a food handler is continuing to engage in other work on the food premises, all practicable measures must be implemented to prevent food from being contaminated.

Hand washing

Everyone has bacteria on their bodies and even healthy people can spread bacteria onto food by touching it with their hands. Hand washing is essential in preventing food borne illnesses. Effective hand washing requires using a basin designated for this purpose and using hot, soapy water followed by drying hands thoroughly with single-use paper towels.

Food handlers must wash their hands whenever their hands are likely to contaminate food. This includes washing their hands:
• immediately before working with food
• immediately after handling raw meat or processed (or cut) fruit or vegetables
• immediately after using the toilet
• immediately after eating, drinking, smoking, coughing, sneezing or using a tissue and
• immediately after touching their hair, scalp, mouth, nose or other body part

Tips for hygienic food preparation and handling

  • Keep raw foods and ready-to-eat foods separate to avoid cross-contamination
  • If possible, use separate, clean utensils and cutting boards for raw foods and ready-to-eat foods, or wash and sanitise utensils and cutting boards between uses
  • Thoroughly clean, sanitise and dry cutting boards, knives, pans, plates, containers and other utensils after using them
  • Thoroughly rinse all fruit and vegetables in clean water to remove soil, bacteria, insects and chemicals
  • Make sure food is thoroughly cooked and the centre of the cooked food has reached 75°C
  • Reheat food to piping hot ensuring it has reached 75°C
  • Avoid keeping high-risk foods in the Temperature Danger Zone (between 5-60°C). Keep chilled foods cold at 5°C or colder, and hot foods hot at 60°C or hotter
  • Avoid leaving just cooked food out to cool for more than one hour. As soon as food has cooled, place it in the refrigerator
  • Keep frozen food out of the Temperature Danger Zone while thawing by keeping it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator
  • Take extra care when preparing foods in which the eggs remain uncooked - such as egg nog and homemade mayonnaise - as bacteria on the egg shells can contaminate the food
  • Be trained in safe food handling and preparation.

More information
Food Safety Standard 3.2.2 Food Safety Practices and General Requirements
WA Health Department