Chicago’s recent Food Safety Summit was the latest venue for brand-protecting professionals to gather and assess new technologies. Educational sessions frequently put handwashing under the collaborative microscope and at the top of the list of potential outbreak-reducing actions, following HACCP’s advice to take on the biggest risk first. Similarly, hand hygiene discussions rippled through the exhibit floor.
Continuous Improvement (CI) was another dominant strategy covered at the Summit. CI clearly works best where actions and outcomes can be measured. This has been sorely lacking in restaurant handwashing. A visit with Clean Hands, booth #136, was an eye-opener to many industry leaders. Surprise and excitement were the dominant reactions in seeing that voice recognition had been harnessed in a multi-patented solution to engage the worker by verifying his or her policy-compliance by simply stating their name. No badges. No manual logs. No manager observation. And it has been successfully applied in restrooms, the norovirus “headquarters.” Crushed Red, a growing salad/pizza concept based in St. Louis, installs this system in each of their new builds.
Clean Hands founder, Ray Johnson, was impressed as creative applications were brought to him for consideration. One firm was excited about the possibility of using the system for tracking not only handwashing, the first step of their Best Practice Protocol, but also the second step, Hand Sanitizing.
Some industry leaders of the past twenty years had prescribed the 2-step process in fighting the #1 restaurant and nursing home pathogen, norovirus. They chose this path because soap/water handwashing is normally credited with a 2-2.5 log reduction of pathogens and the FDA wanted to see a level in the 4-5 range. Over the twenty years of use some operators have fallen by the wayside, partially due to the fact they had no way to control the two step process. Now they do. Let’s hope the true best practice hand hygiene can be saved in the interest of public health - clean first, then sanitize, a proven sequence in maintaining food-safe surfaces as well as hands.
Another visitor expressed interest in using the voice-verified Clean Hands system for just the high-risk stations. A food processing company is considering its use just on the hand sanitation application as they don’t want to change their basic handwashing for fear of their health department’s reaction.
The next step, a giant step, in protecting operator brands and the public who support them is the Engaged Handwasher and data is the low-cost way to recruit them and sustain their better handwashing behaviors.