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Food Safety: Preparing - Topic Overview

Wash your hands often and prepare foods properly to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

How to wash your hands

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following steps for hand-washing:

  • Wash your hands with hot running water and soap. Children should use warm running water.
  • Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds.
  • Pay special attention to your wrists, the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your fingernails.
  • Leave the water running while you dry your hands on a paper towel.
  • Use the paper towel as a barrier between the faucet and your clean hands when you turn off the water.

If soap and water are not available, use gel hand sanitizers or alcohol-based hand wipes containing 60% to 90% ethyl alcohol or isopropanol. Most supermarkets and drugstores carry these products. Carry one or both with you when you travel, and keep them in your car or purse.

When you use the gel sanitizer, rub your hands until the gel is dry. You don't need to use water. The alcohol in the gel kills the germs on your hands.

When to wash your hands

Wash your hands after:

  • Touching bare human body parts other than clean hands and clean, exposed parts of your arms.
  • Using the bathroom.
  • Coughing, sneezing, or using a handkerchief or disposable tissue.
  • Eating, drinking, or using tobacco (for example, smoking).
  • Handling soiled kitchen utensils or equipment.
  • Handling other soiled or contaminated utensils or equipment.
  • Handling or preparing foods, especially after touching raw meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, or eggs.
  • Changing diapers, handling garbage, using the phone, shaking hands, or playing with pets.
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