Hand hygiene is important, without a doubt. Particularly in industries which work with sensitive produce , such as the foodservice industry, attention to hand hygiene is critical. Harmful germs and bacteria can pass on to the food easily through touch,costing the food industry millions of dollars a year. In fact, food contamination alone costs the US a whopping 15.6 billion dollars every year. 8.9 million Americans fall ill due to foodborne diseases a year. In 2013, of those sick, 53,245 needed to be hospitalized and 2,377 passed away. These devastating numbers reflect the importance of hand hygiene in the food industry – both economically and socially.
The fact that hand hygiene must be maintained in the food industry is widely agreed upon, but the question of how remains a source of disagreement. These are the type of questions a company is faced with when attempting to follow the guidelines of good manufacturing practices (GMP) in the food industry. These guidelines are set in place in order to prevent harm from occurring to the customer because of their products. Some restaurants and food manufacturers prefer hand washing, while others prefer gloving.
Often, when wearing gloves we feel a false sense of hygiene. If it’s not touching my hands directly, due to the thin plastic barrier, that must mean it’s hygienic… right? Wrong. There are a number of things that one must remember when using gloves in the foodservice industry.
Cross-contamination while wearing gloves
If an employee came to work sick, they will still cough, sneeze, touch their face and other surfaces around the working space, contaminating them. Yes, even with gloves. The viruses and bacteria that would have clung to the skin until washed away will cling to the gloves too. Unless gloves are changed extremely frequently and carefully, they cannot protect the other workers and the goods from being infected.
Companies need to understand that an employee coming to work sick will only endanger the rest of the staff as well as the finished product. Gloves won’t help in that aspect, however, encouraging sick days and sick leave among employees will. Good personal hygiene practices among employees in the food industry can also help diminish the number of infections in the industry.
Storing gloves in the correct conditions
Extremely high or low temperatures could cause the latex to thin out, break easily, and more. If you’ve decided to use gloves for your business, it’s important to ensure that they’re stored in the correct temperature, humidity, and so on. The price of simply placing the gloves with the rest of the supplies could be very high.
Attention to wearing and taking off gloves
Other areas of the skin comes into contact with the gloves when wearing them or taking them off. Employees need to be taught exactly how to carry out these actions so that skin borne pathogens don’t pass on to the latex surface in the process. Here’s how to do it right, according to the WHO.
Gloves are not an ecological, sustainable solution
On top of having a long, polluting production process, gloves are difficult to recycle. They are not the most ecological answer to the hand hygiene problem out there, and the precious resources their production uses will diminish with time without being naturally replenished by nature at the same speed of use. In the long run, plastic gloves are not a solution that can serve the food industry, or any industry, in the years to come.
Missed hygiene opportunities
When we touch things with our hands, we have the urge to wash them more often. They feel dirty, and so hand hygiene is practiced more often. While wearing gloves, we don’t have the same sensation of objects touching our skin and so gloves are changed less often than needed. This causes more missed hygiene opportunities, producing the opposite of the desired effect.
Hand washing > wearing gloves
Soap can dissolve the virus’ membrane, rendering it inactive. Due to its slippery consistency, soap allows harmful germs and bacteria to be washed away with the water stream. The same cannot be said about gloves: they don’t “kill” the germs or help them slide off of the skin. Handwashing is the cheaper, more ecological answer to the hand hygiene problem the food industry faces.
This is exactly the reason Soapy Care created the ECO Hygiene Micro-Station, a hand wash station for the food industry. The smart hygiene station allows employees in the food industry to wash their hands more thoroughly than ever. The micro-station is touch free, using motion sensors to detect movement and to dispense the correct amount of warm water and soap needed for a perfect wash cycle. The smart automatic hand washing machine scans the hands as they are washed, scoring the wash cycle immediately, letting each employee know whether their hands are clean enough. The ECO Hygiene Micro-Station stores important hand hygiene trends and data on the Soapy Wisdom platform.
If you want to learn more about the ECO Hygiene Micro-Station, you can contact us here.