Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hand washing not allowed

I hope that all of us in the food industry know just how important hand washing is. If done properly, using hot water and soap, working on all the fingers and paying attention to nails, then rinsing and drying thoroughly, it can significantly reduce the amount of bacterial contamination on the hands. Indeed, there is evidence that clean hand contact with food is far less hazardous than contact from a gloved hand if the operator is not careful about glove use.

Rotavirus infections are highly contagious and commonly affect young children. The main symptoms are watery diarrhoea and vomiting, carrying the risk of dehydration. The outbreaks are often seen in kindergartens and schools. As with all gastrointestinal infections, the main route of infection is directly from improperly washed hands or through contact with contaminated surfaces and toys. The virus is resistant to the environment and to disinfection and will survive on surfaces for a long time, so toilet facilities used by children with watery diarrhoea are obvious transfer points. The time between infection and appearance of symptoms varies from 1 to 3 days.

OK – so what set me off on this lecture? My daughter in law has just had a new baby and we are obviously very aware of the potential for infection during her first few weeks of life. My son, (he’s an engineer but grew up being indoctrinated about food safety) informed me that there is an outbreak of diarrhoea at his children’s school. He has provided the girls with an alcohol hand wash to use at lunchtime, because apparently the children ARE NOT ALLOWED TO WASH BEFORE LUNCH. What kind of education for life is that?

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