AMES, Iowa– September is National Food Safety Education Month, and the Iowa Food Safety Task Force reminds all Iowans of the importance of personal hygiene when preparing, handling, serving and storing food. The Task Force’s “Did you wash ‘em?” campaign is designed to encourage Iowans to practice effective hand washing techniques.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), failure to wash hands is the major contributing factor in reported foodborne illnesses in the United States.
“Effective handwashing removes many illness-causing bacteria and viruses, such as Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, norovirus and the Hepatitis A virus,” said Sam Beattie, Iowa State University Extension food science specialist.
The CDC has documented that norovirus is responsible for at least 23 to 50 million cases of foodborne illness annually. “This is more than all bacteria, parasite, and virus-related foodborne illnesses combined, including those caused by Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter,” Beattie said. “The only sources of norovirus and Hepatitis A are human fecal matter and vomit.”
Did you wash ‘em properly?
“Proper hand washing is the single most effective method to reduce or eliminate the transmission of norovirus,” Beattie said. The “Did you wash ‘em?” campaign reminds Iowans – both consumers and food service workers – that effective hand washing can decrease foodborne illnesses.
Did you wash ‘em effectively?
Factors that improve handwashing effectiveness include the use of warm water, hand soap and time. “Once a good lather has developed, hands should be scrubbed for at least 15 seconds,” Beattie said. “Special attention should be paid to the areas between the fingers, fingertips and under the nails. After rinsing, hands should be dried with a disposable towel, which should also be used to turn off the water faucet and open the doors.”
Did you wash ‘em when you should?
Careful hand washing also is critical before handing or preparing food, after using the restroom, petting animals, or changing diapers. “These are specific times when the potential spread of foodborne illness can be prevented,” Beattie said.
If asked “Did you wash ‘em?” the Iowa Food Safety Task Force wants all Iowans to respond “I washed ‘em!”
Handwashing information and resources are available on the Food Safety Project Web site maintained by Iowa State University Extension (www.iowafoodsafety.org). Handouts, songs and other resources for educators and consumers are available under “Did you wash ‘em?”
The Iowa Food Safety Task Force is composed of state and federal regulators, universities, public health officials and food and commodity group representatives. Member organizations include the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, which chairs the Task Force, the Iowa Hygienic Laboratory, the Iowa Beef Industry Council, the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Iowa Pork Producers Association, the Turkey Federation, the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Environmental Health Association, the Iowa Restaurant Association, the Iowa State University Extension Service, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Egg Council and Iowa Poultry Association, and the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division. Funding for many of the Task Force’s projects comes from a grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).