Top Food Code Standard – Hands Clean & Properly Washed

hand washing in sink

The Critical FDA Food Code item #8 that is associated with an increased risk of food borne illness is (failure to keep) hands clean & properly washed. We covered item #9, glove use, in a previous blog post.

Food service workers need to have clean hands that are properly washed to prevent potential food borne illness and to practice standards of common courtesy. Washing hands and not touching ready-to-eat food with bare hands reduces the spread of germs, present on the skin, from contaminating food.

 Food service workers should wash their hands:
• before starting work
• before putting on gloves
• after touching raw, fresh or frozen beef, poultry, fish or meat
• after mopping, sweeping, removing garbage or using the telephone
• after using the bathroom
• after smoking, eating, sneezing or drinking
• after touching anything that might result in contamination of hands

 What is good hand washing?

All employees involved with food preparation should wash their hands with soap AND water for at least 20 seconds and then rinse.

How do you serve ready-to-eat food without using your bare hands?

Use tongs, spatulas, forks & spoons; deli paper, disposable gloves, waxed paper or napkins.

 These foods should not be touched with bare hands:
• fresh fruits and vegetables served raw
• salads and salad ingredients
• cold meats and sandwiches
• bread, toast, rolls and baked goods
• garnishes: lettuce, parsley, lemon wedges, potato chips or pickles on plates
• fruit or vegetables for mixed drinks
• ice served to the customer
• any food that will not be thoroughly cooked or reheated after it is prepared

When scrubbing in for surgery, health care workers are taught to wash their hands for several minutes using a scrub brush and soap. Just like health care workers, food service workers are entrusted with the public health. Hand washing is critical.

In reviewing our Dining Grades database of nearly 3 million health department scores, we have discovered national trends. A subset of that database is the distribution of FDA Food Code top violations. Failure to clean and properly wash hands is a top trending violation. To see further reports, claim your restaurant listing.



Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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