Food handlers’ health and hygiene

As you have learned in previous study sessions, food handlers are a common source of foodborne diseases. The practice of good personal hygiene is essential for anyone who handles food, especially in food and drink establishments where many customers could potentially be affected. A sick food handler with symptoms of diarrhoea, eye and ear discharges, skin infections, open cuts and wounds, or coughing should not continue working. They must be treated and be completely recovered before returning to work.

What are the main principles of food handlers' hygiene?

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To protect food from contamination and to protect the health of the consumers.

Food handlers must use personal protective devices such as clean aprons, overalls or gowns, footwear, and hair cover. As a health professional you should be involved in training food handlers on food safety. The strict rules of handwashing after using the latrine or touching dirt and before handling food must be followed. The box below indicates some bad habits of food handlers that should be avoided.

Unhygienic practices by food handlers

  • Poor personal hygiene practice.
  • Unguarded coughing or sneezing.
  • The habit of licking the fingers.
  • Nose picking or fingering the nose.
  • Handling of handkerchiefs.
  • Working in street clothing.
  • Spitting in food-handling areas.
  • Uncovered hair.
  • Smoking in kitchens.
  • Ignoring handwashing before starting work, after handling contaminated materials, after breaks and after using toilet facilities.
Last modified: Wednesday, 2 July 2014, 11:36 AM