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An Easy Way to Cut Your Risk of Food Poisoning in HALF.

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  June 18, 2013 11:24 AM

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Photo Source: CDC
If you have ever experienced foodborne illness, better known as food poisoning, you know it isn’t exactly a day at the beach.  In fact, as the mother of two boys, I can objectively say that I would rather give birth to a baby than have a bad case of food poisoning.  That’s  how bad the experience is. Trust me.

So to avoid this experience at all costs, I follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation to wash my hands.  Why?  Because according to research, nearly 50 percent of all cases of food poisoning can be prevented if everyone correctly washed their hands.   

Now here comes the big problem.  Not everyone is hygienically trying to avoid food poisoning, according to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health.   In this study, researchers at the University of Michigan trained research assistants to watch and collect data on over 3,700 individuals who used the bathroom in bars, restaurants, and other public establishments.  This is what they found:
  • About 15 percent of the men didn’t wash their hands at all, compared with 7 percent of women;
  • When the men did wash their hands, only 50 percent of them used soap, compared with 79 percent of women;
  • Hand washing was more prevalent earlier in the day, which the researchers suggest may be due to the fact that individuals who go out at night for a meal or a drink may be more relaxed so hand washing becomes less important.
Here are some further insights from the researchers:

According to the CDC, washing your hands correctly means wetting them under cleaning running water, adding soap, rubbing your hands together to make lather, scrubbing, rinsing, and then air drying your hands or drying them with a clean towel.  This whole procedure should take at least 20 seconds.  How long is 20 seconds?   Silently sing the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself, twice, and you will have nailed it.

The next time that you are in a public bathroom, watch and see for yourself if your observations match the findings of this research.    If so, make sure you use a paper towel to grab the door knob on the way out.

Be well, Joan

Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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