— OPINION —
The pubic is the primary loser of last month’s decision by the Conference of Food Protection (CFP) to cancel the proposed re-establishment of the Hand Hygiene Committee, an issue advocated by The Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI). The biennial meeting, in Houston, TX, took this action, ignoring the impact of a Model Food Code without a standard for a Clean Hand for at least 2 more years:
- Operators are forced to make hand hygiene decisions without the science.
- Inspectors are forced to fill in boxes on their reports that give little direction to improve compliance. What is “compliance” without a standard?
- Deprived of this standard, Operators’ efforts to create a Food Safety Culture are compromised.
- Would-be technology developers are discouraged without the science. Official opinions change quite frequently i.e., handwash temperature, time, use of a nail brush, wipes, and COVID driven acceptance of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (ABHS).
- It is incompatible with the FDA’s “New Era of Smarter Food Safety” initiative.
The recreation of the Hand Hygiene Committee was recommended to gather and interpret the latest hand hygiene research and provide direction for new studies. Their findings could then have been operationalized by those foodservice and food processors to better serve the away-from-home public, their customers.
Council I’s 22 members reviewed the issue, including this definition of a Clean Hand:
A Clean Hand in the foodservice and food processing industries is one that is unlikely to transfer pathogens from the hand to food, surfaces or directly to other people.
This verbal description was developed as a common ground starting point as researchers look to add the science, the evidence, needed by operators to make better informed hand hygiene decisions. Secondarily, this action demonstrated how a diverse group of food safety professionals could work together in the interest of public health.
The unlikely to transfer phrase lights the path to the essential research protocol. An established independent laboratory responded to the call and submitted a proposal. If Operators truly want the science behind a Clean Hand, might they directly fund it. If 12 sponsors could be recruited at $4,500 each, the research could be completed this Summer. The research protocol would be shared with all “investors”. Invoices would be sent from the lab with no added third-party fees.
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