Study Says You’re Probably Washing Your Hands All Wrong

Most people don't wash their hands properly when preparing food

Most people don't wash their hands properly when preparing food

Five percent of the time, salad lettuce had become contaminated; 48 percent of the time, participants contaminated spice containers that they had used while preparing burgers.

A government report released on June 28 found study participants in kitchens where they were actively being watched failed to properly wash their hands 97 percent of the time.

According to the CDC standards for acceptable handwashing, people in the study didn't wash their hands properly. "By simply washing your hands properly, you can protect your family and prevent that bacteria from contaminating your food and key areas in your kitchen".

Not only did the participants washing their hands the wrong way, but the USDA found that many of them didn't dry their hands after washing them.

The USDA teamed up with the nonprofit firm RTI International and North Carolina State University to conduct the study.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million Americans are sickened with foodborne illnesses each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.


The CDC warns that those who are at a higher risk of a foodborne illness include children, older adults, and those with a weaker immune system.

"There were many, many times in the course of the study that people had the opportunity to wash their hands - almost 1,200 opportunities", Rottenberg told NBC News.

Before they started preparing the foods, 182 of the participants were shown a three-minute USDA video on the importance of using a thermometer to cook raw poultry safely.

Accordingly, almost half of the spice containers used by study participants in the control group (who did not watch the thermometer video) were contaminated.

Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap. Avoid focusing only on your palms by making sure to lather behind your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. The CDC recommends rubbing your hands for 20 seconds until they feel dry. A proper wash of visibly dirty hands takes about as long as singing "Happy Birthday" twice.

People are failing at basic measures, not washing their hands for 20 seconds as recommended, and not drying their hands with clean towels, the study says. They must be cleaned under running water and soap after using the toilet, before eating food, after touching animals, changing diapers, handling garbage, and more. That included E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to as "staph".

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