Life of Poo handwashing: 30-second food safety stories

Everyone says they wash their hands.

life-of-pi_0But when researchers look, most don’t

(especially men).

A UK professor wrote a book, The Life of Poo,

Sorta like the Life of Pi (and the last book I read).

He says toothbrushes should be 2m from the loo.

And he says, no one washes their hands in a way that will work.

“Whether you are brushing your teeth, having sex, cleaning your bathroom, following the 2-second rule, debating the 5-second rule, guzzling probiotics or just sitting on the toilet, this book is likely to be of interest to you.”


30-second food safety stories.

I wash my hands.

I’m no Yogi Berra, but this Taco Bell worker caught with hands down his pants

There’s an old food safety saying: gloves give a false sense of security, and it doesn’t matter whether wearing gloves or not, you scratch your ass, bacteria are going to move.

taco.bell.2OK, it’s my saying.

Been making people cringe for 20 years.

But now, because everyone has a camera, there’s photographic proof.

A customer at an Ohio Taco Bell noticed one of the employees behind the counter had his skillful taco-making hands inside his pants, brushing up against his backside.

The customer posted the picture to Taco Bell through Facebook, and according to Fox 8, the employee was identified, then fired.

Taco Bell said:

“This is completely unacceptable and has no place in our restaurants. Our franchisee took immediate action, and has terminated the employee and retraining the entire staff. We want customers to know that the person in the photo was never in contact with the food, and that the Health Department inspected the restaurant and approved its operations.”

They couldn’t fire the guy fast enough, though, as the memes quickly started pouring into Taco Bell’s site.

If someone tried ordering a Choco Taco, this guy was definitely delivering.

But instead of the corporate apologetics, Taco Bell could have found a more fitting use for its PR thingies.

RIP Yogi. King of the soundbite

yogi.bera.sep.115Before athletes were required to have a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in addition to their busy schedule of pre-, post- and mid-game interviews, Berra’s prowess with a funny quip and quick soundbite rivaled his skill on the field.

Lines like “It’s déjà all over again” have bcome so ubiquitous that they simply seem to have sprung, fully formed, from the American vernacular.

1, When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

  1. Ninety percent of the game is half mental.
  2. You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.
  3. Make a game plan and stick to it. Unless it’s not working.
  4. We made too many wrong mistakes.
  5. Why buy good luggage, you only use it when you travel.
  6. All pitchers are liars or crybabies.
  7. Even Napoleon had his Watergate.
  8. If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.
  9. Take it with a grin of salt.

Entire publications have said less with many more words.



142 sickened with E. coli from UK takeaway because staff fail to wash hands

More than 100 takeaway customers were sick for up to two months with a rare strain of E. coli - after staff did not wash their hands after using the toilet, a court heard.

handwashing.sep.12Nottingham Crown Court heard that 142 customers of the Khyber Pass in Hyson Green, Nottingham, suffered with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea after the outbreak last June.

In one case, a 13-year-old girl spent four nights in hospital with a consultant saying the infection could have been fatal if it was not treated.

Amjad Bhatti and Mohammed Basit, owners of the Khyber Pass, in Gregory Boulevard, pleaded guilty to seven food hygiene offences and were sentenced on Wednesday.

Prosecuting, Bernard Thorogood said that nine of the 12 members of staff who handle food at the takeaway were found to have traces of the bacteria, and one of the defendant’s daughters fell ill.

Mitigating, Robert Egbuna said lessons had been learnt and improvements made at the takeaway.

He said: “It is not just a case of adding hand basins. There have been significant changes that have come about from the real shock of what has happened.”

Bhatti and Basit were both given four months prison suspended for a year, as well as being ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work each.

His Honour Judge Jeremy Lea also said each of the victims should be paid £200 compensation by the defendants as well as paying costs of £25,752.36.

Not so: Antibacterial handwash ‘no better than soap at killing germs’

Food micro geek Don Schaffner of Rutgers University responds in a point-counterpoint style discussion of antibacterials in soap and effectiveness.

point.counterpointAccording to the story, a new study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy found that antibacterial handwash is no more effective than plain soap at killing bacteria.

In recent years numerous products have appeared on the shelves claiming they were effective in killing 99.9 per cent of all germs.

But Korea University scientists investigated the effect of triclosan, the most commonly used active antiseptic ingredient in soap, in everyday conditions on bacteria such as MRSA, salmonella and listeria.

In recent years numerous products have appeared on the shelves claiming they were effective in killing 99.9 per cent of all germs. That’s actually a regulated label claim.  And it’s not “99.9 per cent of all germs.”  It’s 99.9 percent (3 log reduction for the math nerds) of certain regulatory-specified organisms under specified test conditions.

One central key weakness of the study is that authors state in their methods, “Antibacterial soap had the same formulation as plain soap except that it contained 0.3% triclosan.” While this might seem to be a good idea from the science perspective, it turns out that soap formulation is a tricky business. For antimicrobials to be optimally effective, the formulation might need to be adjusted. You can’t just throw sh*t in at ‘the maximum allowed by law’ and expect it to work.

Handwashing intervention in daycares doesn’t reduce illness

Either the employees were already real good at hand hygiene, or the interventions didn’t resonate with people. are common in children attending daycare centres (DCCs). We evaluated the effect of a hand hygiene (HH) intervention for caregivers on the incidence of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections in children. The intervention was evaluated in a two-arm cluster randomized controlled trial.

Thirty-six DCCs received the intervention including HH products, training sessions, and posters/stickers. Thirty-five control DCCs continued usual practice. Incidence of episodes of diarrhea and the common cold in children was monitored by parents during 6 months. Using multilevel Poisson regression, incidence rate ratios (IRRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were obtained. Diarrheal incidence was monitored in 545 children for 91 937 days. During follow-up, the incidence was 3·0 episodes per child-year in intervention DCCs vs. 3·4 in control DCCs (IRR 0·90, 95% CI 0·73–1·11). Incidence of the common cold was monitored in 541 children for 91 373 days. During follow-up, the incidence was 8·2 episodes per child-year in intervention DCCs vs. 7·4 in control DCCs (IRR 1·07, 95% CI 0·97–1·19).

In this study, no evidence for an effect of the intervention was demonstrated on the incidence of episodes of diarrhea and the common cold.

A hand hygiene intervention to reduce infections in child daycare: a randomized controlled trial

Epidemiology and Infection / Volume 143 / Issue 12 / September 2015, pp 2494-2502

P. Zomer, V. Erasmus, C. W. Looman, A. Tjon-A-Tsien, E. F. Van Beeck, J. M. De Graaf, A. H. E. Van Beeck, J. H. Richardus and H. A. C. M. Voeten

Blame consumers: How to handle an egg edition

Less than half of adults, only 48 percent, wash their hands with soap and water after cracking eggs, and over 25 percent eat cookie dough or cake batter containing raw eggs, according to a study published last month in the Journal of Food Protection. Both activities put a person at serious risk for food poisoning.

raw.egg.mayo“It’s shocking,” says lead author Katherine Kosa, a research analyst in food and nutrition policy at RTI International, a nonprofit research organization based in North Carolina. In an earlier study, her team found that 98 percent of people wash their hands after handling raw poultry, but somehow that same logic hasn’t extended to eggs, she says.

She and collaborators surveyed 1,504 US grocery shoppers about their food-handling habits. The researchers were happy to find that 99 percent of people purchased refrigerated eggs and kept them refrigerated. Keeping eggs adequately cool prevents any salmonella present in the eggs from growing to dangerous levels.

Atlanta café sucks at handwashing

Multiple food prep employees at Saigon Cafe in Buford were only rinsing their hands briefly in cold water while prepping food during a recent inspection, leading to a failing health score.

buford.t.justiceThe Gwinnett County health inspector said another employee touched raw beef with gloved hands, then took off the gloves to handle ready-to-eat foods but didn’t wash his hands to ensure they were free of contaminants.

The inspector said there was no managerial control over food safety at the restaurant. Saigon Cafe, 3380 Buford Drive, scored 44/U on the routine inspection. Previous scores were 85/B and 80/B.

Points were also taken off because improper cooling methods were being used for potentially hazardous foods. Cooked chicken, pork and chicken broth were all discarded because they had not cooled sufficiently in the time allowed.

Several items in coolers were not separated to prevent contamination. Unwashed fruits and vegetables were not separated from the ready-to-eat foods, and loosely wrapped packages of raw pork spring rolls and vegetable spring rolls were stacked together.

Signs don’t work: Employees must wash hands

 Handwashing is important in preventing microbial cross-contamination. The US FDA Model Food Code requires that handwashing sinks have a sign or poster nearby that is visible to employees washing their hands.

jon.stewart.handwashing.2002This research collects and reviews existing handwashing signs and subjects them to quantitative analysis. An Internet search produced a database of handwashing signs. Lather time, rinse time, overall wash time, water temperature, water use, drying method, technique, and total number of steps were recorded.

Eighty-one unique handwashing signs were identified. Each sign had between one and thirteen steps. Thirty-seven signs indicated a specific lather time, with average time ~18 s. No sign suggested > 20 s lather, and none suggested < 10 s lather. Twenty-four signs recommended use of warm water. Two signs recommended 100°F (37.8°C) water and one recommended hot water. Sixty-two signs made a recommendation on drying hands, and fifty-three suggested using a paper towel.

Our analysis reveals that handwashing sign instructions can vary quite widely. Lack of consistent hand wash guidance on signage may contribute in part to a lack of handwashing consistency and compliance. Our study serves as a foundation for future research on handwash signage. 

Quantitative analysis of recommendations made in handwashing signs

Food Protection Trends, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 270-279, July 2015

Dane A. Jensen, Donald W. Schaffner


The hands have it: Food safety through handwashing

Handwashing is simple.

handwash_south_park(2)Science says otherwise.

Despite endless statements to just wash hands to be safe — in the kitchen, in food service, at the petting zoo —  little research has been done to quantify what actually works when it comes to handwashing.

U.S. government recommendations for 15-20 seconds of handwashing under vigorously flowing water after a potential contamination event may not be practical in a food service environment.

Dr. Donald Schaffner, a professor of food safety at Rutgers University, and colleagues, have attempted to add some science to the discussion.

“Many people seem to have strongly held opinions about handwashing, says Schaffner, “but the research base for those opinions is lacking. Our research begins to dispels some popular beliefs about handwashing.”

The researchers showed that even a minimal handwash (5 seconds, no soap) can remove about 90 per cent of bacteria on hands.

Further, the research showed that towel drying was much more effective than other methods because of the friction involved in physically removing bacteria from hands.

Schaffner says “Everyone has an opinion about handwashing, but our research is beginning to provide real data to help inform sensible policy.” 

 Contact: Dr. Donald Scaffner



Quantifying the effect of hand wash duration, soap use, ground beef debris, and drying methods on the removal of Enterobacter aerogenes on hands

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 4, April 2015, pp. 636-858, pp. 685-690(6)

Jensen, Dane A.;Danyluk, Michelle D.; Harris, Linda J.;Schaffner, Donald W.

Hand washing is recognized as a crucial step in preventing foodborne disease transmission by mitigating cross-contamination among hands, surfaces, and foods.

This research was undertaken to establish the importance of several keys factors (soap, soil, time, and drying method) in reducing microorganisms during hand washing. A nonpathogenic nalidixic acid–resistant Enterobacter aerogenes surrogate for Salmonella was used to assess the efficacy of using soap or no soap for 5 or 20 s on hands with or without ground beef debris and drying with paper towel or air. Each experiment consisted of 20 replicates, each from a different individual with ∼6 log CFU/ml E. aerogenes on their hands. A reduction of 1.0 ± 0.4 and 1.7 ± 0.8 log CFU of E. aerogenes was observed for a 5-s wash with no soap and a 20-s wash with soap, respectively. When there was no debris on the hands, there was no significant difference between washing with and without soap for 20 s (P > 0.05). Likewise, there was no significant difference in the reductions achieved when washing without soap, whether or not debris was on the hands (P > 0.05). A significantly greater reduction (P < 0.05) in E. aerogenes (0.5 log CFU greater reduction) was observed with soap when there was ground beef debris on the hands. The greatest difference (1.1 log CFU greater average reduction) in effectiveness occurred when ground beef debris was on the hands and a 20-s wash with water was compared with a 20-s wash with soap. Significantly greater (P < 0.05) reductions were observed with paper towel drying compared with air (0.5 log CFU greater reductions).

Used paper towels may contain high bacterial levels (>4.0 log CFU per towel) when hands are highly contaminated. Our results support future quantitative microbial risk assessments needed to effectively manage risks of foodborne illness in which food workers’ hands are a primary cause.

 Quantifying the effect of hand wash duration, soap use, ground beef debris, and drying methods on the removal of Enterobacter aerogenes on hands


Journal of Food Protection®, Number 4, April 2015, pp. 636-858, pp. 685-690(6)

Jensen, Dane A.;Danyluk, Michelle D.; Harris, Linda J.;Schaffner, Donald W.

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New research or PR: Why paper towels are the most hygienic way to dry your hands?

I have no problem with who funds research, as long as there is full disclosure and the methodology is available for critique in a peer-reviewed journal. That would be the public part.

handwash_south_park(2)The Daily Mail in the UK thinks readers are too dumb to ask for references, and begins with, “Paper towels are the most hygienic way to dry hands after going to the loo, a study has found.”

It took The Mirror to note that the University of Westminster’s snappily-titled study ‘Comparison of different hand-drying methods: the potential for airborne microbe dispersal and contamination‘ was published in the March 2015 edition of The Journal of Hospital Infection.

The research was commissioned by paper towel manufacturers and claims that single-use towels are the most hygienic way to dry off.

It probably is.

The research also claims that bathroom air dryers may be blasting bacteria directly into the faces of children.

However, a major hand dryer manufacturer has disputed the claims, calling the research “flawed”.

The university’s study was undertaken by leading microbiologist Keith Redway of the University’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and looked at the potential for microbial contamination from hand drying and the potential risks for the spread of microbes in the air, particularly if hands are not washed properly.

jon.stewart.handwashing.2002The peer-reviewed research – which was commissioned by the European Tissue Symposium (ETS) – used four different hand drying methods and three different test models to compare differences between the drying methods and their capacity to spread microbes from the hands of users potentially to other people in public washrooms.

Paper towels, a textile roller towel, a warm air dryer and a jet air dryer were compared using three different test models: acid indicator using lemon juice, yeast, and bacterial transmission from hands when washed without soap.

The University of Westminster scientists found that the jet air dryer spread liquid from users’ hands further and over a greater distance – up to 1.5 m – than the other drying methods.

They also recorded the greatest spread of microbes into the air at both near and far distances for each of the tested models.

Levels recorded at close distance for a jet air dryer revealed an average of 59.5 colonies of yeast compared with an average of just 2.2 colonies for paper towels.

At a distance of 0.2 m the jet air dryer recorded 67 colonies of yeast compared with only 6.5 for paper towels. At a distance of 1.5 m the jet air dryer recorded 11.5 colonies of yeast compared to zero for paper towels.

The research also looked at the body height at which microbes were spread by air dryers.

It found the greatest dispersal was at 0.6 – 0.9 m from the floor, the face height of small children who might be standing near the dryer when a parent is drying his or her hands.

Leading researcher Keith Redway said: “These findings clearly indicate that single-use towels spread the fewest microbes of all hand-drying methods.

“Cross contamination in public washrooms is a legitimate public health concern. The extent to which jet air dryers disperse microbes into the washroom environment is likely to have implications for policy guidance to facilities managers operating in a wide range of environments from sports venues and airports through to schools and hospitals.”

But Dyson, a major hand dryer manufacturer, strongly disputes the study’s findings.

A spokesperson said: “The paper towel industry has consistently failed to invent new technology or respond to environmental concerns.

“Paper towels are costly to buy and replace, and are rarely recycled, meaning they are sent to landfill or incinerated. To argue their case, the paper towel industry is continuing to commission research with flawed methodology.

“A study conducted by Campden BRI’s (an independent membership-based organisation carrying out research and development for the food and drinks industry worldwide) hygiene specialists found that there are no practical differences between any of the hand drying techniques investigated (paper towels, conventional air dryers and the Dyson Airblade) with regard to microbial aerosol generation.

“The very low numbers of airborne microbes resulting from use of each of the hand dryers would make an insignificant contribution to the overall background microbial loading of the air.”

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