Washing the hands carefully and frequently enough is the cornerstone of the safe handling of food products and general hygiene – also in the household kitchen.

The spread of many diseases such as influenza and stomach complaint can be prevented by means of effective hand-washing.

Always begin food preparation by washing your hands

Microbes such as bacteria and viruses from the environment and the skin itself are always present on unwashed hands. When foods are handled with one’s bare hands, bacteria and viruses are transferred from them to these food products.

When they end up in food, bacteria may multiply, causing illness. Viruses do not multiply in food products, but even a very small number of viruses can lead to illness.

The microbes that cause disease can be highly durable. Some bacteria increase under refrigerator temperatures and some are able to produce heating-resistant bacterial toxins in food.

The best way to prevent microbes that cause disease ending up in food products is to carefully wash your hands with soap and water. Hands should always be washed prior to preparing food, also while doing so as required, and always before eating.

Wash your hands:

  • always before starting food preparation
  • during food preparation when you have handled raw meat, poultry or fish
  • when you switch to handling some other raw material – for example, going from salad preparation to ready-made food
  • after activity alongside food preparation, such as visiting the toilet, changing a nappy, sneezing, or emptying a garbage bag
  • after washing your hands, you can still use a product intended for hand disinfection if you have a stomach complaint 
  • if you have no possibility to wash your hands – for example, at a picnic or while travelling – clean your hands carefully with an unscented freshen-up towel and use then a product intended for hand disinfection 

The right technique for washing hands

  • remove rings, jewellery and watches during washing as well as food preparation
  • moisten your hands with warm water
  • apply liquid soap to your hands
  • rub your hands together for about 20 seconds
  • carefully wash the back of the palms, the sides, the wrists, between the fingers and under fingernails and where rings are worn
  • rinse your hands till they are clean
  • dry your hands carefully with a clean, disposable towel
  • protect your clean hands when you turn the tap off with, for example, a towel
  • if required, use a product intended for disinfecting hands after washing as well

Do not prepare food while ill

It is not advisable to prepare food for others while ill. You can easily contaminate food via contact or airborne infections and spread illness to others.

Remember to protect possible hand cuts with sticking plasters. There are more bacteria in cuts and inflamed skin of the hands than what is normally the case.

If you have a stomach ache or you are suffering from the worst stage of flu, it is best to leave food preparation to someone else. If this is not possible, handle food products with care and pay attention to careful hand-washing. In addition to washing, you can use a product intended for disinfecting your hands.

Page last updated 10/24/2019