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Handwashing—Essential to Protecting Public Health

By: Ashley Eisenbeiser, MS, CFS, Director Food and Product Safety Programs, Food Marketing Institute

Handwashing stationTomorrow is Global Handwashing Day. Yes, you heard it. Handwashing Day. And, it’s not just National Handwashing Day but Global Handwashing Day. Why Handwashing you may ask? 

Although it may sound simple, handwashing plays an important role in protecting public health throughout the world, whether it’s in grocery store, restaurant, or in a healthcare environment.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), poor personal hygiene, which includes handwashing, is one of the 5 major risk factors that contribute to foodborne illness. Moreover, controlling contamination by food handler’s hands is one of the key public health intervention addressed in the FDA Food Code to protect consumer health.

Handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent foodborne illness.  Handwashing is easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Wet your hands and forearms with warm running water and then apply soap.
  2. Rub your hands together, making sure to scrub: the backs of the hands, forearms, in between fingers, under your hands. 
  3. Continue rubbing for 15-20 seconds. No need for a timer, just sing the Happy Birthday song to yourself twice.
  4. Rinse your hands under running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer.

Food handlers should always wash their hands in a designated handwashing sink.

FMI’s comprehensive food safety training program for the retail food industry, SafeMark® offers a number of food safety solutions for retail to help retail employees learn how to keep food safe and protect the health of their customers. Click here for more information on SafeMark.

The Partnership for Food Safety Education offers a number of resources to promote handwashing. Visit to access these handwashing resources. 

For more information on Global Handwashing Day visit:

Remember, when it comes to food safety, the best protection is prevention. Happy Global Handwashing Day!