Food safety is not only determined by proper sanitation, food storage or cleaning methods. Personal hygiene is an important factor in food safety as well. Unclean hands, dirty clothing, uncovered hair and improper habits in a kitchen can cause food contamination through bacteria, dirt or germs. When food contamination occurs, those consuming the food can experience sickness such as food poisoning.
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Hands should be washed after entering the food handling area, as well as after using the bathroom, using a tissue, eating, drinking, smoking, using cleaning supplies or handling raw food. According to the Food Safety Knowledge Network, a proper hand washing technique involves scrubbing the skin for at least twenty seconds, including the backs of the hands and between the fingers. A scrubbing brush can be used to clean under the fingernails. Hands should be rinsed thoroughly and then dried with a disposable towel or air dryer.
Clothes worn in food handling areas should be clean and free of buttons or dirt that can fall into the food. Long sleeves should be avoided, because the sleeves can touch the food and fibers can fall off and cause contamination. Protective clothing, such as aprons or uniforms worn only in the food handling area, can further prevent contamination from the dirt or fibers found on clothing.
Jewelry such as watches, bracelets and rings can come into direct contact with food. Since these items can contain dirt, germs and bacteria, jewelry should be worn sparingly. Earrings can also fall out and into food, and long dangling necklaces can transport bacteria into food as well. Other accessories, such as money clips and hair ties worn around the wrist, can cause contamination if they come into contact with food. If jewelry must be worn around food, it should be clean and secure.
Since hair is easily shed and can cause sickness if consumed by others, it is hygienic and safest to cover the head when in a food handling area. This can be done with a clean hat or a hair net. Dirt and bacteria can be found in facial hair, so any facial hair should be kept clean. If the facial hair is long, it should be covered as well. It is also hygienic to avoid hair brushing or handling in a food preparation area.
Anyone who is currently sick or recovering from sickness should stay away from a kitchen. Even if proper hand washing techniques are practiced and there is no sneezing or coughing directly into the food, simply breathing around food can spread the sickness. Smoking, spitting and chewing in the kitchen should be avoided. Any wounds should be covered with a clean bandage, and nails should be kept trimmed short.