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Kick off National Food Safety Education Month with Great Hand Washing Methods to Use All Year Long

Posted by Mary Katherine Jeffers, Writer, Executive Correspondence and Issues Management Staff, Food Safety and Inspection Service in Health and Safety
Sep 04, 2018
White water droplet on blue background with clean text
White water droplet on blue background with clean text.

With children going back to school and September being National Food Safety Education Month, now is a great time to learn more about food safety and preventing foodborne illness. One way to stay food safe and to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses (and any illness for that matter) is to make proper hand washing routine at home and at school.

Everyone is at risk for foodborne illnesses, but young children are at greater risk for experiencing a more serious illness because their immune systems are not as developed as an adult’s. That’s one reason Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has issued a proclamation naming the month of September National Food Safety Education Month. This month was created to enhance awareness of the importance of properly handling, cooking and storing your food to avoid foodborne illness.

Cleanliness is a major factor in preventing foodborne illness and is a critical step to avoid getting sick. It is also especially important for parents who prepare meals, and children who enjoy eating the meals, to be aware of the importance of hand washing. FSIS recommends people not only wash their hands for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, but also:

  • After using the bathroom;
  • After changing a diaper;
  • After handling pets;
  • After tending to a sick person;
  • After blowing your nose;
  • Coughing, or sneezing;
  • After handling uncooked eggs or raw meat, poultry or fish and their juices.

Parents can make handwashing fun for their children by singing the “Happy Birthday” song or the ABC’s, twice, as they wash their hands along with their child. Be sure that everyone follows these steps:

  • Wet hands with clean, warm running water, turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of hands, between your fingers, and under nails.
  • Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. Rinse hands well under clean, warm running water.
  • Dry hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Although washing hands is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them, if soap and water are not available, you can use disposable wipes.

When parents teach children healthy habits like handwashing, they can be a part of USDA’s efforts to prevent the spread of bacteria and keep their children healthy.

Consumers can learn more about key food safety practices at Foodsafety.gov, by following @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter, and by liking Facebook.com/FoodSafety.gov. Consumers with questions about food safety can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov, available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.

If you have questions about storage times for food or beverages, download USDA’s FoodKeeper application for Android and iOS devices.

Category/Topic: Health and Safety

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