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Handwashing is food safety focus

September 13, 2007

Media Contact: Dr. Angela Fraser, associate professor and food safety education specialist, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, North Carolina State University, 919.515.9150 or

The simple act of washing one's hands can dramatically reduce the likelihood of spreading or contracting food-borne disease.

That is the message food safety experts are reinforcing this September, which is National Food Safety Education Month. This year's theme, "Food-borne Pathogens: Your Family's Health is in Your Hands," focuses on the importance of good hygiene when preparing food.

Whether in the home or in a food service establishment, handwashing is one of the single most effective ways to prevent food-borne illness, says Dr. Angela Fraser, associate professor and food safety education specialist with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at North Carolina State University

Fraser adds, "Food-borne illness is more common than most people realize. About 76 million people get sick with food-borne illness in the United States (annually). That is about one in every four Americans."

"Poor hygiene, cross-contamination and improper food temperatures are what cause most cases of food-borne illness. All of these are easily controlled if one uses safe food handling practices. Furthermore, it's important to remember that any food can become contaminated, so to prevent food-borne illness, you must handle all food safely all of the time.

"The good news is that food-borne illness is nearly 100 percent preventable if food is handled safely from the time it is received until the time it is used."

Safe food handling begins with proper handwashing. Experts say keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. They advise washing hands with hand soap and warm running water for at least 20 seconds before and during food preparation and always before eating.

Hands should then be dried using a clean paper towel to prevent them from becoming recontaminated. Don't use hot water when washing hands, Fraser advises. It dries them out, making them more difficult to clean. Also, hand sanitizers should never be viewed as a substitute for proper handwashing. Hand sanitizers should only be used when water is not available.

National Food Safety Education Month was created in 1994 by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's International Food Safety Council to build awareness of food safety in the restaurant and foodservice industry. The focus of the month has since been expanded to heighten consumer awareness about the importance of safe food handling practices.

More information about safe food handling practices is on several N.C. State University Web sites: and

Written by:
Dave Caldwell, 919.513.3127 or

Posted by Dave at September 13, 2007 10:26 AM