Proper Handwashing Is Key In Preventing Restaurant Illness

proper handwashing

Article contributed by Rada Tarnovsky, Letter Grade Consulting


Just after romaine lettuce was declared safe enough to eat again, then came the contaminated eggs. And then came the cereal recall. The fact that cereal can have traces of salmonella, made me realize that nothing was safe. But no matter how unnerving that realization was, foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants still seem scariest of all. According to the CDC, 1 in 6 people will get sick from eating contaminated food, leading to 128,000 hospital visits and 3000 deaths.

Besides paying attention to recalls, protecting ourselves from food that’s contaminated during production is pretty impossible. However, we can take active steps like proper handwashing to ensure that we do not contaminate food that we prepare.  Here’s the catch… that sense of security comes with preparing our own food in our own kitchens. But we don’t always prepare our own food, we are part of a culture that enjoys eating out. We eat food prepared in kitchens that we have no control over, by people we do not know. And so, as diners, we find ourselves at the mercy of restaurant operators. 

While operating a restaurant has many challenges, taking active steps and implementing protocols to prevent contamination must take precedence over everything. By choosing to eat out, we have relinquished the control we have in our own kitchens and placed that responsibility with the restaurant. That responsibility is serious.

Salmonella, E.coli, and norovirus are germs that can get onto hands after using the toilet or handling raw meat. Preparing food with hands that haven’t been washed properly can spread germs, lead to contamination and increase the chance of illness. Proper handwashing is considered one of the most important ways to avoid spreading germs

Here’s the scary part: Based on a new study from the U.S Department of Agriculture, people failed to wash their hands properly 97% of the time before preparing food.

So besides holding in-house seminars, following daily protocols, making sure food is cooked and stored at the right temperature, sanitizing, separating, and following the Food Code, every restaurant operator must go back to the basics and teach their staff how to properly wash their hands.

These are the 5 key steps for proper handwashing:

  1. Wet hands with clean water and apply soap;
  2. Lather… don’t forget to include the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds (humming the “happy birthday” song twice)
  4. Rinse with Clean water
  5. Dry hands with a clean towel or air dry.
New England Food Show November 2018 728×90

Teaching and enforcing proper handwashing in restaurants is a vital step towards preventing illness. Improper handwashing isn’t just gross, it’s also dangerous. We love to eat out, so please keep us safe.


To learn about food service permits and more, visit Rada’s website.

Rada Tarnovsky is a practicing attorney, who co-founded Letter Grade Consulting to help food service operators comply with regulations set forth by the NYC Department of Health.  Servicing restaurants, hotels, theatres, corporate cafeterias and schools, Letter Grade Consulting provides operators with preemptive solutions, education and training to sustain the highest level of food safety, remain inspection ready and maintain the “A” in the window. Rada can be reached at rt@lettergradeconsulting.com

Rada Tarnovsky
Rada Tarnovsky is a practicing attorney, who co-founded Letter Grade Consulting to help food service operators comply with regulations set forth by the NYC Department of Health.  Servicing restaurants, hotels, theatres, corporate cafeterias and schools, Letter Grade Consulting provides operators with preemptive solutions, education and training to sustain the highest level of food safety, remain inspection ready and maintain the “A” in the window. Rada can be reached at rt@lettergradeconsulting.com