Food Safety is in your hands, and in your home - keep washing, keep washing, keep washing

Trisha Greene
Trisha Greene.

It may seem, at times, that washing hands for the recommended 20 seconds is a bit excessive. 

It’s not, says Kansas State University food scientist Karen Blakeslee. 

“Because our hands touch many things, the first thing to do when you get ready to prepare food is to wash your hands,” Blakeslee said. “Our hands carry many germs or bacteria. When you prepare food and eat food, unwashed hands increase your risk of foodborne illness. This simple practice not only reduces foodborne illness risks, but even overall health risks, including respiratory and diarrheal illnesses.” 

Blakeslee said making sure fingernails are clean is an important part of washing hands. Though rare, parasites — such as pinworms — have been found under fingernails. 

“More commonly,” she said, “types of bacteria that can be found under fingernails include Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli or Shigella species. To help reduce risks, keeping fingernails short and using a nail brush, or at least scrubbing soap around the fingernail areas, helps remove contamination.”  

More information about safe food handling practices is available on the K-State Research and Extension Food Safety website. 

Learn more about handling food safely in the K-State Research and Extension publication At-Home Safe Food Handling: It’s in Your Hands. 

“In September, food safety is a focus of education and outreach, but food safety is important every day of the year,” Blakeslee said. 

Those interested in a visit to schools regarding handwashing should contact 620-549-3502 for the St. John office and 620-659-2149 for the Kinsley Office.