ATLANTA–February 15, 2002–The people responsible for the safety of much of the country’s food supply will put their hygiene skills to the test when they compete in The Clean Hands Challenge, Thursday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.
The challenge will be to see how well participants wash their hands after touching a solution containing plastic fluorescent particles, which glow under black light if not removed by hand-washing.
The event, sponsored by Kimberly-Clark Professional, will be held at IFT’s International Food Safety and Quality Conference and Expo. It underscores the importance of proper hand washing in preventing cross-contamination, which can lead to the spread of foodborne illnesses.
“According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four foodborne illness outbreaks can be linked to poor hygiene, generally unwashed or poorly washed hands,” says Linwood Herndon, food processing and grocery segment manager for Kimberly-Clark Professional.
“That’s why the CDC says hand washing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infections like foodborne diseases, which result in up to 75 million illnesses and approximately 5,000 deaths in the U.S. each year,” she adds.
Herndon cites the many studies that have shown that people do not wash their hands as often as they say they do, or as often as they should.
“For workers in food-related industries, there are strict government regulations about when and how to wash up,” she adds.
For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Code provides explicit hand washing instructions for foodservice workers, and food processing plants address hand washing as a “critical control point” in their efforts to institute Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Participants in the Clean Hands Challenge — professionals responsible for quality assurance, plant management, sanitation and hygiene at leading food processing and retail food companies — will put the latest hand washing products and methods to the test as they attempt to demonstrate their hand washing prowess.
Participants will begin by rubbing their hands with a solution that, like bacteria, can not be seen by the naked eye. Any solution that remains on the hands after they are washed, dried and sanitized will glow under black light– immediately separating the good hand washers from the bad.
“The process should open a few eyes,” says Herndon, who points to steps in the hand washing process that are cause for concern. “In addition to following the proper hand washing procedures, you have to look at everything your hands come into contact with — from the dispensers used for soap and towels to the door handle you touch on the way out of the washroom.”