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Keeping employees' hands clean is a cottage industry all its own; a handful of vendors at the food processors' meeting touted and hawked various high-tech devices to clean workers' hands -- and verify that the employees had done their cleaning.

In various handwashing outreaches, government officials have also targeted the general public. Attention-grabbing programs have included a Pennsylvania county's campaign which used bathroom posters that parodied literary classics, and a West Virginia school initiative that may have been so health-promoting it improved attendance among youngsters.

Before we wash our hands of this affair, a few final pointers. Remember to wash before, during, and after handling food. You should also wash after handling any animal and after using the bathroom. And if you wash, don't just soap up with warm water -- make sure you scrub. A government consumer guide recommends that you scrub for 20 seconds, or the length of a little tune you can hum to yourself.

Vital Information:

  • When the FDA reviewed 81 foodborne illness outbreaks since 1975, the agency found that food worker illness was a factor in almost all of the cases. In 35 of the outbreaks, hand contact was identified as a specific contributor.
  • Food preparation specialists recently met to test and demonstrate effective methods of hand cleaning. Although clean hands are a special concern to these people, even they learned their methods can fall short of completely cleansed hands. Many are returning to their workplaces to implement more thorough handwashing procedures.
  • In general, people should wash their hands before, during, and after handling food, as well as after using the bathroom or handling animals. It's also important to scrub for at least 20 seconds during each handwashing.

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