Restaurant Worker Hand Washing

Restaurant Worker Hand Washing
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What percentage of restaurant workers comply with the federal Food Code guidelines for hand washing?

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To avoid the cancer-or-E-coli conundrum, we could ask a restaurant to instead steam or boil our meat—but they’d still have to handle it correctly. You know how bathrooms in restaurants have that sign saying that employees have to wash their hands? Well, researchers at Iowa State University sent trained observers to 16 restaurants in the Midwest to count how often, and how well, restaurant employees washed their hands as they prepared our food.

How did they do? Now note they measured hand washing compliance with the U.S. Food Code guidelines, which are pretty strict—like you’re supposed to wash your hands every single time you switch from preparing one food, to another; like from meat to veggies. So it’s hard to score 100%. At the same time, they had a researcher sitting there, watching them, with a clipboard, the whole time.

So, are you so cynical that you think they complied less than 20% of the time? 20% to 40%? 40% to 60%? 60% to 80%? Any optimists for 80% to 100%?

Well, it wasn’t 80%-100% of the time. Or 60%-80%. Or even 40%-60%. “Thus, there was 0% compliance with Food Code recommendations for hand washing procedures.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

To avoid the cancer-or-E-coli conundrum, we could ask a restaurant to instead steam or boil our meat—but they’d still have to handle it correctly. You know how bathrooms in restaurants have that sign saying that employees have to wash their hands? Well, researchers at Iowa State University sent trained observers to 16 restaurants in the Midwest to count how often, and how well, restaurant employees washed their hands as they prepared our food.

How did they do? Now note they measured hand washing compliance with the U.S. Food Code guidelines, which are pretty strict—like you’re supposed to wash your hands every single time you switch from preparing one food, to another; like from meat to veggies. So it’s hard to score 100%. At the same time, they had a researcher sitting there, watching them, with a clipboard, the whole time.

So, are you so cynical that you think they complied less than 20% of the time? 20% to 40%? 40% to 60%? 60% to 80%? Any optimists for 80% to 100%?

Well, it wasn’t 80%-100% of the time. Or 60%-80%. Or even 40%-60%. “Thus, there was 0% compliance with Food Code recommendations for hand washing procedures.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

For more videos on E. coli contamination and animal products, check out:
Avoiding Chicken To Avoid Bladder Infections
Meat May Exceed Daily Allowance of Irony

And check out my other videos on foodborne illness

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

10 responses to “Restaurant Worker Hand Washing

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  1. I know it’s pretty gross, but the “[p]roposed benchmarks for the number of times hand washing should occur
    by each employee… [is] 29 times per hour for restaurants” is quite high.

    1. Think of the time involved in.washing your hands “29 times per hour” as a restaurant worker. To comply with the regulations you must wash with hot water for at least 20 seconds, then dry hands for a few seconds, then put gloves back on. In total, this would require over 30 seconds each time, meaning HALF YOUR TIME AT WORK would be SPENT WASHING YOUR HANDS.

      It is not practical.

      When I was visiting Paris I noticed that at sandwich shops, one person handled the cash. Other workers ONLY prepared food. This would certainly help avoid cross-contamination, although it does not solve the problem entirely.

      I doubt that American establishments would be willing to pay an extra person to do this.

      1. Whilst in France this summer, all of the employees at the Boulangeries (bakeries) handed me my whole wheat bread with their bare hands and took my money at the same time with their bare hands. I doubt sanitary practices are emphasized over there.

  2. As someone who’s worked as a cook I can confirm that this is very true. Even though you will wash you hands when you’re not busy if the order’s are piling up you just don’t have the time.

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