People Are Not Correctly Washing Their Hands 97% Of The Time

  • People Are Not Correctly Washing Their Hands 97% Of The Time

People Are Not Correctly Washing Their Hands 97% Of The Time

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a study that found 97 percent of people don't properly wash their hands when preparing food, which can lead to cross-contamination and ultimately raise the risk of contracting food poisoning.

Campylobacter bacteria, a common food-borne illness. Some 128,000 are hospitalized, and around 3,000 die. Children, older adults and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.

For the study, researchers invited 383 people into six test kitchens located in both urban and rural areas of North Carolina. All of them were recorded while preparing turkey burgers and salads. Unknown to the participants, the turkey had been "spiked" with harmless tracer microorganisms. The first one was shown with a three-minute video of how to safely prepare food and to use food thermometers.

Each of the participants was videotaped in the test kitchen. A prior study done in 2013 by Michigan State University found that only 5 percent of people washed their hands correctly.

According to the paper, very few of the participants rubbed their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds - deemed enough time to get the grime off - and nearly half didn't wet their hands with water pre-wash. Almost half of those who did not wash their hands thoroughly after handling raw meat later contaminated salt and pepper shakers with bacteria from the meat.

Five percent of the participants transferred the tracer microorganisms to the lettuce in the salads they prepared. After splitting the volunteers into a "control" and "treatment" group, researchers compared people's cooking behaviour depending on whether they watched an instructional food safety video on how to measure the safe internal temperature of cooked meat. Instead, they relied on the burger's color and "feel" to judge whether it was safe to eat - methods that have been shown to be unreliable.

As for meat thermometer use, people in the group who watched the video were twice as likely to use a thermometer and to insert it in the correct location of the patty (from the side, in case you're wondering).

The right amount of time not to fail at washing hands are 20 seconds or more.

After wetting the hands, close the water and softly apply soap to them. This includes the back of the hands, in between the fingers, under the nails and the palms. To time yourself, scrub for as long as it takes to hum the song "Happy Birthday" two times.

Then rinse your hands and dry them on a clean towel.

Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

That clean towel is important. That included E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

FMI: You can read the FSIS report online.