Hand Washing Matters - Home and Away

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Hand Washing Hygiene

A quarter of respondents to a recent survey in Northern Ireland were found to have potentially harmful bacteria on their hands after using a public toilet.

This is one of the key findings of a survey by safefood, the Food Safety Promotion Board and the Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland (FSANI) and Northern Ireland's Councils to mark this year's National Food Safety Week (13-19 June), which is focusing on the importance of hand washing to prevent food poisoning and gastroenteritis.

The survey indicated that over 90% of those tested claimed to wash their hands after using a public toilet. However, microbiological tests were used to analyse their hands which indicated that 25% were carrying potentially harmful bacteria. This finding strongly suggests that either their hands had been washed inadequately or not at all. In addition over 60% of respondents to the same survey admitted that they don't always wash their hands before eating outside the home.

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Dr David McCleery, Chief Specialist in Microbiology for safefood explains the impact of these results: "Potentially harmful bacteria may remain on our hands if we don't wash them properly. We can't see these bacteria but the risk is very real as they can be easily transferred from hands to food, which may result in infection for those who then eat it."

"It is important to take the opportunity of National Food Safety Week to remind everyone that hand washing is one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of harmful bacteria. It is essential that hands are washed properly after using the toilet and before preparing and eating food to prevent food borne diseases."

Trevor Williamson, Principal Environmental Health Officer, FSANI explains the correct way to wash your hands: "Our survey clearly shows that while we may think our hands are clean, many of us are not washing them properly. You need warm water and soap and a good, thorough hand wash should take more than 15 seconds. Thorough drying is also essential as damp or wet hands are a great breeding ground for bacteria."

Working in partnership with all 26 local councils, the Consumer Council and the Northern Ireland Food

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