Topic 1 Personal hygiene

Food handlers – the staff – are responsible for the quality and safety of the food they prepare. Maintaining the personal hygiene of staff is one of the most important ways to ensure that food is not contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms or physical and chemical contaminants (Kaunas Food Industry and Trade Training Centre, 2015).

Personal hygiene is the maintenance of body cleanliness, especially of the hands, nails, hair and clothing. It is also necessary to get rid of bad habits such as nose-picking, smoking, touching hair, face and ears, which can lead to contamination of the hands with dangerous bacteria (Kaunas Food Industry and Trade Training Centre, 2015).

The most common way to contaminate food with bacteria is by touching it with dirty hands.

Several actions can contaminate the hands of a food handler, such as nose sniffing; coughing with a handkerchief or hand covering; touching the face, ears or eyes; hair combing, touching hair; using the toilet; touching washing equipment or chemicals; touching raw vegetables, meat, fish; touching unwanted food, waste, rubbish (Kaunas Food Industry and Trade Training Centre, 2015).

It is recommended for food handlers to have short and clean nails, not varnished, as chipped nail varnish can get into the food; wounds covered with brightly coloured plasters, as they are easier to be found if lost (Kaunas Food Industry and Trade Training Centre, 2015).

Hair must be completely covered as it often falls out and can get into the food; hats do not completely cover the hair, so a net should be worn over long hair; hair must not be touched while wearing work clothes (Kaunas Food Industry and Trade Training Centre, 2015).

Staff must wear clean, easily washable or disposable, light-coloured work clothes; work clothes must not be worn in areas other than food premises; work footwear must be non-slip; watches or jewellery must not be worn as they accumulate bacteria and increase the risk of contamination of food (Kaunas Food Industry and Trade Training Centre, 2015).

Coughing and sneezing (bacteria in the throat and nose can get to food); smoking (wash your hands after smoking in designated areas); tasting food (clean spoon should be used for tasting and it should be washed after tasting); nail biting (bacteria from the mouth are transferred to the fingers and then to the food) (Kaunas Food Industry and Trade Training Centre, 2015).

Please note that food-related work is not allowed if the worker suffers from food poisoning, vomiting or diarrhea.