A new study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that when it comes to handwashing before meals, consumers are failing to properly clean their hands 97 percent of the time. Rushed handwashing can lead to cross-contamination of food and other surfaces, resulting in foodborne illness.
“As a mother of three young children, I am very familiar with the mad dash families go through to put dinner on the table,” said Carmen Rottenberg, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA. “You can’t see, smell or feel bacteria. By simply washing your hands properly, you can protect your family and prevent that bacteria from contaminating your food and key areas in your kitchen.”
The study showed some concerning results. When it comes to handwashing, most failed to wash their hands for the necessary 20 seconds and many did not dry their hands with a clean towel. Only 34 percent of participants used a food thermometer to check if burgers were cooked properly and, of those that did, almost half
still did not cook them to the safe minimum internal temperature.
Regarding cross contamination, the study showed participants spreading bacteria from raw poultry onto other surfaces and food items in the kitchen. Forty-eight percent of the time spice containers used are contaminated when preparing burgers, 11 percent of the time bacteria is spread to refrigerator handles and 5 percent of the time salads are tainted due to cross-contamination.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million Americans are sickened with foodborne illnesses each year. Children, older adults and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.
Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling raw meat, poultry or eggs. Make sure you are washing for a full 20 seconds, and always dry your hands on a clean towel.