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Victorian Government Health Information Website
Personal hygiene for people working with food
Don’t let your food turn nasty!
Food poisoning is a serious health problem. It can cause severe illness and even death.
Food poisoning can seriously damage the reputation of a business, damage the reputation of the food industry, and damage the jobs of many workers.
As a person who handles food – whether you are a kitchen hand, a food process worker, a shop assistant or a waiter – you have an important responsibility to handle food safely. So:
  • protect other people from getting sick
  • protect your reputation in the food industry
  • protect your business, and
  • protect your job.
Personal hygiene
An important way to prevent food contamination is to maintain a high standard of personal hygiene and cleanliness.
Even healthy people carry food poisoning bacteria on their bodies. By touching parts of your body, such as your nose, mouth, hair, or your clothes you can spread bacteria from your hands to the food.
Good personal hygiene also makes good business sense. Customers like to see food handling staff who take hygiene seriously and practice safe food handling.
Put yourself in their place and watch how your workmates handle food. Would you want to eat at, or buy food from, your business?

Wash your hands thoroughly
Washing your hands thoroughly is a good way to reduce the chance of contaminating food with bacteria.
Wash your hands with soap and warm water and don’t forget the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
Thoroughly dry your hands immediately after you wash them. Always dry your hands with a clean towel, disposable paper towel or under an air dryer, not on a tea towel and never on your clothes.
Wash your hands after:
  • going to the toilet
  • handling raw food
  • blowing your nose
  • handling garbage
  • touching your ears, nose, mouth or other parts of the body
  • smoking
  • every break
  • handling animals.
If you are wearing disposable gloves change them regularly, in the same way you would wash your hands regularly if not wearing gloves. Wash and dry your hands before putting on gloves.
You must not work when you are suffering from illnesses which are likely to be transmitted through food. These include gastroenteritis (often called ‘gastro’), hepatitis A and hepatitis E.
You must advise your supervisor if you are feeling unwell.
You should not return to work if you are suffering from vomiting or diarrhoea. Don’t return to work until your symptoms have stopped for 48 hours. If you are unsure, you should contact your doctor for advice.
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