Hand washing seems pretty straightforward, but a recent study shows that 97% of us still do it wrong – which can lead to food and surface contamination and foodborne illness.
The study by the US Department of Agriculture shows that most consumers do not wash their hands and rub with soap for 20 seconds. This is the time recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who say washing for shorter periods means that fewer germs are removed.
"Many" study participants did not even wipe their hands with a clean towel [19659002Thestudyincluded383peopleintestkitchenfacilitiesinthesubwayRaleigh-DurhaminNorthCarolinaandinlandSmithfieldNorthCarolinareportedtheUSDA
Poor hand washing practices led to cross-contamination, the study said. About half of the time, participants spread bacteria in spice containers while making burgers, and 1
"You can not see, smell or feel bacteria," said Carmen Rottenberg, deputy Secretary of State for Food Safety at the USDA. "By washing your hands properly, you can protect your family and prevent bacteria from contaminating your food and key areas in your kitchen."
The results of the USDA study indicate that our hand washing habits may worsen. A 2013 study from Michigan State University found that only 5% of people had their hands washed properly.
So what's the right way to wash your hands? The CDC has some tips, starting with an obvious step: moistening your hands with clean, running water.
Step 2: After wetting the hands with water, turn off the water tap and apply soap
Step 3: Rubbing your hands together with the soap. Make sure to lather the back of your hands, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
Step 4: Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. (Sing the Alphabet Song or "Happy Birthday" twice.)
Step 5: Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
Step 6: Dry hands with a clean cloth or dry them in air
A separate study released this month found 49 out of 100 tested towels showed growth of bacteria normally found in or on the human body. These included E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to as "staphylococci".
The bacteria were more likely to be found on wet towels and towels that were used for more than one purpose, such as wiping work surfaces and utensils and drying hands, according to the study, by researchers from the University of Mauritius
Proper Hand Washing One of the easiest ways to avoid food-borne illnesses is to make 48 million Americans sick each year, according to CDC estimates. This leads to about 128,000 hospital admissions and 3,000 deaths.