Starting a home-based food business is a dream of many home cooks. Beginning small, in your own kitchen, with shelf-stable baked goods and other allowed foods is a practical way to try out this venture. One of the first things to keep in mind when preparing food for others is safe food handling practices including good personal hygiene habits.
Working while sick and poor hygiene practices (such as not washing hands after using the restroom) can contaminate food and cause foodborne illness outbreaks and other diseases like colds and the flu. Implementing health and hygiene policies can help reduce unwanted contamination of your product.
Develop health and hygiene policies and review them at least yearly. Suggested review topics include basic hygiene, recommended handwashing technique, and how to handle injury or illness.
How Workers Contaminate Food
Food handlers can contaminate food in many ways, for example:
When they don’t wash their hands before they touch food
When they are sick
When caring for someone who is sick
When they have exposed cuts, sores or open wounds that are infected
When they are wearing dirty clothing
Health and Hygiene Policies and Training
Educate yourself on health and hygiene policies to keep yourself and any workers aware of expectations. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has good information on handwashing and personal hygiene (see resources at the bottom of this fact sheet). Develop health and hygiene policies and review them at least yearly. Suggested review topics include basic hygiene, recommended handwashing technique, and how to manage injuries or illness.
If you or anyone helping you has the following symptoms, they should not be permitted to handle food or enter the kitchen:
Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and eyes)
Sore throat with a fever
Owners and workers diagnosed by a health practitioner with an illness caused by these pathogens, must wait until their health practitioner and/or regulatory authority, such as a health department, indicates it is safe to handle food:
Salmonella Typhi or non-typhoidal Salmonella
Recommended Handwashing Practices
Good handwashing is one of the best ways to reduce the spread of illnesses and diseases. Clean hands help keep food and containers safe during processing. Follow these guidelines for how and when to wash your hands:
How to wash your hands:
Wet hands with warm, potable (safe to drink) water
Apply soap - enough to build up a good lather
Scrub hands and arms vigorously for 20 seconds. Be sure to clean between fingers and under fingernails
Rinse hands and arms thoroughly using warm, potable water
Dry hands and arms using a single-use paper towel or hand dryer. Use the paper towel to turn off the faucet or open the door when leaving the restroom
When to wash hands:
Before starting work
Before and after eating, drinking, or smoking
After using the bathroom
When changing processing tasks
After touching your hair or clothing
After coughing or sneezing
After touching anything that might contaminate your hands