How often should Food Handlers wash their hands?

If you work with and handle food, you’ll know the importance of keeping your hands clean and germ free.

If you do not wash your hands regularly in the kitchen, over time bacteria will build up. Once on your hands, you will start to spread bacteria to other things you touch. This is one of the causes of cross-contamination in the kitchen.

Washing Hands

Risk of Cross Contamination

Cross contamination is when bacteria from a contaminated source are transferred to uncontaminated food. For example, imagine you have handled some raw chicken in order to prepare a dish. Bacteria from the raw meat are now on your hands.  Now imagine you have finished this part of the dish and started handling vegetables as an accompaniment. The bacteria from the raw chicken, transferred via your hands, will infect the raw vegetables and could cause food poisoning.

A number of bacteria can make people ill if eaten – these are food poisoning bacteria. The consequences of food poisoning often lead to a person being unwell and in severe cases, can result in death.

This is why washing your hands regularly must be seen as an essential regular factor in preventing Cross Contamination.

Cross contamination

Dedicated Hand washing basins

Your kitchen should have a dedicated ‘Hand-wash only’ sink in order to reduce the chances of cross contamination.

If you use hand–wash basins for preparing food or cleaning equipment, you will contaminate the basin with bacteria. If someone else uses the basin to wash their hands, they will pick up the bacteria and may pass them on elsewhere in the kitchen.

‘Hand-wash only’ basins should be clearly marked by a sign.

In order to be effective, a hand washing area should also have the following components;

  • Running hot water and cold water
  • Liquid soap
  • Hygienic hand drying facilities like paper towels. Linen towels are less effective as they can also spread contaminants.

Hand Washing

When you should wash your hands

We’ve established you should regularly wash your hands when working with food and in a kitchen. Below are a few key actions to bear in mind, and to always wash your hands after;

  • after visiting the toilet
  • after touching refuse such has food waste or bin bags
  • after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
  • after you have handled raw food, poultry or vegetables
  • after breaking eggs
  • after eating, drinking or smoking
  • after cleaning and disinfecting
  • and before starting work or handling food

Washing your hands may seem like a trivial task, but as we’ve seen germs on your hands can lead to larger problems in the kitchen. It is an easy and effective way to prevent cross contamination and protect the people who eat your food. This is why Food Handlers should wash their hands regularly when working in the kitchen.


If you'd like to learn more about Food Safety topics, we'd recommend taking our online Food Safety Level Two course. Find out more about the course here.


















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