hand wash

4 Ways to Keep Poor Hand Hygiene from Killing Your Catering Business

18/02/2019   ●    8 minute read

Washing hands is one of the major safe food handling procedures for food handlers. And if you are a caterer in food business, nurturing good hand hygiene within your organisation is critical.

Non-adherence can cost people’s lives.

With an average of 120 deaths annually in Australia due to foodborne illnesses, this issue deserves to be in the spotlight of the catering industry.

But what if your efforts to enhance hand washing compliance backfire? People often take the line of least resistance as soon as the effect of training wears off.

Then you have the Hawthorne effect and many other hand hygiene non-compliance issues.

This is a tough nut to crack for many food industry managers and supervisors.

And yet, customers trust you to provide them with food that’s safe for consumption. So, in order to meet food safety compliance guidelines, you need to prepare for the worst.

Just one severe case of food poisoning can put you out of business. But how far are you ready to go to prevent this scenario from happening to you?

We’ll talk legal liability, bad examples, proper hand washing technique and the ways to drive home the message to your staffers. Enough to put you on the right track.

Table of Content

Learn From Bad Examples

  • A 1995 Garibaldi Case
  • A 2007 Food Poisoning Incident
  • A 2015 Wedding Reception Incident

Understand Your Legal Responsibilities and Know Potential Legal Repercussions

  • What Are Your Responsibilities if You Think You Have Caused Food to Be Contaminated?
  • Can You Be Sued for Food Poisoning in Australia?

Hand Hygiene in Catering: How to Do It Right?

  • What Are Good Personal Hygiene Practices in the Commercial Kitchen?
  • When Should Food Handlers Wash Their Hands?
  • What Are the Hand Washing Procedures for Food Handlers?

Keep Your Staff Washrooms Spic and Span

Hire a Reliable Hygiene Service

1. Learn From Bad Examples

On a yearly basis, Australia encounters 5.4 million cases of foodborne illnesses. When put on paper this translates to costs of over $1.2 billion yearly.

According to the OzFoodNet 2016 Annual Report, Western Australia has seen a 26% increase in enteric diseases in 2016. Below is a chart with the number of reported cases for different enteric infections in 2016.

annual report
Image from ww2.health.wa.gov.au

These outbreaks were mainly due to ingesting contaminated raw foods. But the major cross-contamination factor over the 5 previous years was the person-to-food-to-person transmission.

Whatever the mode of transmission, serving unsafe food will cost you resources, lawsuits and your business reputation.

This can literally spell disaster for your business. Yet, learning from real-life examples and not only relying on textbook will give you a head start. It’ll give you insights into what to keep an eye on and what to do if a customer makes a complaint against you.

Below are a few examples of food businesses involved in cases of food poisoning.

A 1995 Garibaldi Case

Known as one of the longest-running legal cases in Australia, Garibaldi case ended in 2011. The last 25 claims finally settled after 16 years worth of lawsuits. The smallgoods producer is held liable for food poisoning incident caused by E. coli contaminated mettwurst.

The incident resulted in the tragic death of one child. Other affected children suffered long-term health implications. Finally, they have been financially compensated by the Garibaldi’s insurance company in $10 million worth of damage.

A 2007 Food Poisoning Incident

The Homebush French Golden Hot Bakery in NSW was blamed for and pleaded guilty for a mass food poisoning incident in March 2007.

Food handling negligence had them fined with a legal bill of $42,000. 319 people were affected in this case.

A 2015 Wedding Reception Incident

The Holy Smoke BBQ and Catering company was sued for a foodborne illness outbreak that affected an extensive list of attendees at a wedding in New York.

100 people caught the infection while 22 of them were hospitalised.

Food leftovers from the wedding were sampled and sent for analysis. But the test results that came back were inconclusive.

Regardless, the company’s reputation suffered after the incident was broadcast nationally.

food safety information
Image from The Gourment Guardian

Leave the guesswork out when it comes to legal matters if you mean to protect your eating establishment, along with your customers.

Not knowing your legal obligations when it comes to food safety can translate fast enough into not knowing what hit you. And that must be the last thing you want.

Commercial caterers in Australia are legally responsible to comply with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. It branches out into two respective standards:

The responsibility is shared between those who superintend and those who come into physical contact with food. No one is spared.

To that end, infection control procedures should be in place in your food areas to avoid code violation and fines when you get inspected by the state food authority.

What Are Your Responsibilities if You Think You Have Caused Food to Be Contaminated?

Your managers and staff need to have the following issue constantly on their mind. Serving unsafe food to customers potentially leads to tragic outcomes and has a hugely negative impact on your business.

Yet, once it’s happened, it’s critical to act quickly and reduce the damage as much as possible.

If you suspect you’ve been selling contaminated or spoiled food to your customers, these are the steps you should take:

  • Put a halt to any further sales immediately
  • Withdraw and recall unsafe food
  • Report the case of food contamination/foodborne illness to food authorities
  • Announce the case of food contamination/spoilage through media release: paper, TV or online channels
  • Investigate the causes of contamination
  • Prevent food poisoning to reoccur. Reevaluate your food safety practices and put more effective ones in place

Moreover, if a food handler suspects their actions might have caused food to be unsafe to consume, they should report this to their supervisor.

But you might be wondering:

Can you be sued for a case of food poisoning? And if you are, what exactly are indicative cases for legal retribution?

Can Your Food Business Be Sued for Food Poisoning in Australia?

A commercial caterer can be sued for food poisoning, negligence or premise liability under the public liability law. If a customer proves the bout of food poisoning is due to food your establishment prepared, they may have a case against you.

In which case you will be liable to pay compensation to the eligible party for costs incurred for the medical treatment needed.

Costs you might be liable to cover include:

  • medical bills
  • lost work income cost
  • hospital visit expenses
  • cost of non-economic damages, such as mental anguish

Furthermore, if you’re found liable for a case of food poisoning in New South Wales and Queensland, another thing is in store for you: a public reprimand. The establishments that commit serious food offences are in for a name, shame and blame etiquette.

3. Hand Hygiene in Catering: How to Do It Right?

The longest-lasting commercial caterers with unblemished food handling record have mastered these two things:

Proper hand washing technique is the single most effective way to prevent foodborne illnesses in commercial catering. Skipping it or merely underwashing equals compromising your customers’, your colleagues’ and your own health.

Food professionals’ personal hygiene, staff illness control management and good hand hygiene should be at the top of the agenda of any commercial catering business.

What Are Good Personal Hygiene Practices in the Commercial Kitchen?

Personal hygiene is very important for food handlers. Microbes are everywhere. And while most of them won’t harm your customers, there are those that can make them very sick.

Even bacteria that are commonly found in humans, that might not necessarily cause infection, such as Staphylococcus aureus can be harmful in some cases. It can trigger disease in customers if their skin is damaged or injured.

All professionals employed in food service, especially those that are likely to come into contact with ‘unwrapped food’ should follow good personal hygiene practices.

Aside from washing their hands food handlers should stick to the following personal hygiene rules:

  • Wear clean clothes and change it daily. Change into clean work attire each day you arrive at work.
  • Wear hair and beard restraints. Professional hats prevent hair from falling into food and food professionals from touching their hair and spreading contaminants onto food this way.
  • Clip your fingernails regularly. Keeping them neat and free of nail polish makes them easier to clean with a nail brush. Bacteria love hiding on those surfaces so make sure you clean under the fingernails when washing hands.
  • Keep all cuts and sores covered. Use waterproof bandages, gloves or finger stalls to prevent any wound secretion from coming into contact with food.
  • Do not wear jewellery. Food residue can stick to bracelets and rings and then fall back into food when deteriorated. In cases you have the jewellery on, it’s mandatory to wear protective gloves.
  • Keep facial hair neat. Both food preparation and food service staff should keep hair neatly tied back and facial hair covered.
  • Report personal health issues to supervisor. If you’re suffering from a communicable disease you should stop handling food until you’ve recovered and notify your supervisor immediately about your health condition.
  • Practice proper sneezing and coughing etiquette.Do not cough or sneeze over food that’s being prepared or over food preparation surfaces.

When Should Food Handlers Wash Hands?

You should employ corrective measures if you notice any incorrect hand washing practices in your food area.

To minimise the spread of communicable diseases to your customers, your food preparation workers should wash their hands whenever there’s a risk of contaminating the food.

To do so, you need to provide them with accessible hand washing and drying facilities first of all.

Your food professionals should wash their hands:

  • Whenever they finish using the toilet
  • Whenever they’re handling ready-to-eat food after working with raw food
  • Whenever they transition from food handling tasks to other tasks and vice versa
  • After coughing and sneezing into their hand or after using a disposable tissue
  • After eating, drinking and smoking
  • After touching a body opening, their hair or scalp

What Are Hand Washing Procedures for Food Handlers?

Do your food handlers wash their hands properly? People are prone to negligence and as a result your business can suffer lowered hygiene standards as time goes by. To that end, food establishments typically provide staff refresher training.

So, if you want to see your hygiene standards improve, you’ll need to offer continuous education, good adherence program and use hand washing posters as visual reminders for your staff.

Now, below are the recommended hand washing steps food professionals should follow when working around food:

  • Use dedicated hand washing facilities for hand washing before handling food
  • Wet your hands with warm running water and scrub them using soap for a minimum of 20 seconds
  • Pay attention to crevices on your hands such as areas between fingers and underneath fingernails
  • Rinse your hands for 20 seconds
  • Dry your hands well using a disposable paper towel or a continuous cloth towel
  • Use disposable nail brushes and a hand sanitiser if your hands aren’t visibly soiled
food safety information
Image from Australian Institute of Foos Safety

4. Keep Your Staff Washrooms Spic and Span

And last but not least, keep your washroom supplies filled at all times to prevent faecal contaminants from getting into food. You don’t want your staff contaminating the food with what they pick up in the washroom, right?

So keeping your staff washrooms regularly replenished with soap and paper towel dispensers is clearly beneficial to the health of your customers and the lifespan of your business.

But investing in the washroom upkeep also keeps your staff healthy and pays for itself in reduced sick leave.

Hire a Reliable Hygiene Service

For commercial caterers leaving hygiene to chance means putting your business at risk. And the stakes are high. So, you need to do everything in your power to set the bar high.

Even if it means hiring professionals to step in. And sometimes that’s exactly what you need when your business is in full swing.

Subscribing to Fresh & Clean hygiene services and leaving your washroom to us frees up your time so you can go about your business and do some really important stuff.

Want to know the best part?

Food service businesses can rely on us not only for commercial washroom supplies but for tea towels and linen, chef aprons and other hospitality uniforms.

Give us a ring and we’ll do all there is to tailor our services to your specific needs.

Disclaimer: The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice.

Photo courtesy of Pexel by Burst

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