Practicing good personal hygiene is essential to food safety. It will help prevent physical and biological hazards from entering an establishment and contaminating food. Here are seven basic hygiene practices that should be followed while at your establishment:
1. Have a clean uniform
The goal is simple: bring as few pathogens as possible to work. Your uniform could contain a variety of pathogens, especially when it is dirty. Wash it often and wear a clean uniform each shift. In addition, bathe before each shift to reduce the number of pathogens you carry. Doing these simple steps will help keep pathogens from coming with you to work.
2. Wash your hands
Your hands contain millions of bacteria and viruses that can easily spread to food. To help keep the pathogens from spreading to food, you should wash your hands often. There are some specific times you should wash your hands, but you should always wash them whenever you think they could be contaminated. Some activities where you should wash your hands include after using the restroom, after taking a break, after switching tasks, before beginning a new task, and after touching your hair or face.
3. Wear gloves (and change them regularly)
Before putting on a pair of gloves, you should wash your hands. Once you put on your gloves, do not to touch your hair, face, or other surfaces that could contaminate them. Whatever you touch could have pathogens on them and those pathogens could get into the food you prepare, even if you are wearing gloves. In addition, if your gloves are torn or you have been wearing them for 4 hours, wash your hands and put on a new pair of gloves.
4. Wear a hair covering
Hair can create both a physical and biological hazard. If a customer finds a hair in their food, they are less likely to return to your establishment. Wearing a hair covering, such as a hair net, visor, or cap, will help keep hairs from falling into the food you prepare. If you are serving food, you may not be required to wear a hair restraint. However, if you have long hair it is a good idea to pull it back to keep your hair from falling or dangling into the food.
5. Keep fingernails clean and trimmed
Fingernails can easily trap dirt and pathogens. Because of this, fingernails should be kept short and clean. When washing your hands, be sure to take time to scrub underneath your fingernails. This helps remove the dirt that could be trapped underneath your nails. If a food worker chooses to wear nail polish or artificial nails, gloves must be worn whenever they are working with food. This will help prevent the nail polish from chipping or an artificial nail from falling into the food.
6. Beware of jewelry
Pathogens can get trapped under jewelry, which creates a biological hazard. In addition, jewelry, such as bracelets, watches, and rings, could fall into food, creating a physical hazard. Jewelry should never be worn when working with food for these reasons. Employees, however, may wear a plain metal ring, such as a wedding band.
7. No eating, drinking, and smoking
When you eat, drink, or smoke your hands spend a lot of time near your mouth. The pathogens in your mouth could contaminate the food you are preparing if you do these activities around food. When you do eat, drink, or smoke, use a break room or another place to avoid contaminating food.
Good personal hygiene can help your business. Follow these principles to help keep you, your employees, and your customers safe. For more information about this topic and other food safety tips, check out our other resources and our food manager course!
Food safety reminder
Good personal hygiene is critical in your workplace. Wear a clean uniform for each shift.
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2017 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.