Take the time to wash your hands – Australians still failing handwashing test Global Handwashing Day 15 October

Media release

15 October 2009

29% of men and 8% of women failed to wash their hands after using the bathroom in the food hall of a shopping centre, according to an observational study of 200 people by the Food Safety Information Council published to coincide with Global Handwashing Day 15 October 2009.

When launching the hand washing study today, Dr Michael Eyles, Chair of the Food Safety Information Council, said the observational results were very disappointing, especially as there had not been any statistically valid improvement since a 2002 observational study where 27% of men and 9% of women failed to wash their hands.

‘Correct hand washing is an important public health issue as you might find that you and your family may not only get less food poisoning but also less viral diseases like colds and flu,’ Dr Eyles said.

‘We need to take the time to wash our hands with soap and running water and to dry thoroughly – and to make sure that the rest of our family does as well.

‘There is evidence that Australians do know how to wash their hands correctly as a national telephone survey by Newspoll in November 2008 showed that 98% of respondents recognised that you should wash your hands using soap and dry thoroughly on a clean towel. This is a considerable improvement on the first Food Safety Information Council survey in 1997 when 18.4% of respondents didn’t know the importance of washing their hands before preparing food.

‘The observational study showed that young girls were best at washing and drying their hands correctly. Overall men, especially older men, were the worst performers,’ Dr Eyles concluded.

The Food Safety Information Council tips on washing your hands correctly are to remember the 20/20 rule of 20 seconds washing with soap and 20 seconds drying thoroughly:

  • Wet your hands and rub together well to build up a good lather with soap as the suds help to carry the bugs away. Do this for at least 20 seconds and don’t forget to wash between your fingers and under your nails. You might have to use a nail brush.
  • Rinse well under running water to remove the bugs and dirt from your hands.
  • Dry your hands thoroughly on a clean towel for at least 20 seconds. Touching surfaces with moist hands encourages the spread of bugs from the surface to your hands.

Always wash and dry your hands:

  • before touching or eating food
  • after touching raw meat, fish or chicken
  • after using the toilet
  • after blowing your nose
  • after touching a pet.

It’s also a good idea not to touch sores or cuts and to make sure they are covered with a band-aid or gloves if preparing food.

See a demonstration on how to wash your hands correctly

The Food Safety Information Council is Australia’s leading disseminator of consumer targeted food safety information. It is a non-profit entity supported by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing, state and territory health and food safety agencies, local government, and leading professional, industry and community organisations.

Further information:

Global Handwashing Day

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