Last week the Southwest Environmental Health Association volunteered to help establish a reference number for restaurant outbreaks due to poor hand hygiene. The group, largely local, state and national regulators, was asked What percentage of foodborne outbreaks are attributable to poor hand hygiene? They were given these choices: 20%, 40%, 60% or 80%.
Thirty-one responses yielded an average of 68.4% and a median of 65%.
The Handwashing For Life Institute will use the median number of 65% in allocating risk intervention resources. This number is clearly nothing more than an approximation but by a highly experienced group of professionals. We will use this number until something more scientific becomes available.
This factor can help operators prioritize their risk reducing initiatives. We are also hopeful that this provides a weighting to an FDA favored term of "personal hygiene" which while more encompassing, masks the reality of handwashing.
In the national news and political world, aided by the emphasis of Marler Clark's Food Safety News, outbreaks are all about food processing and sourcing issues, again distorting the direct connection to poor handwashing.
Thank you Southwest Conference attendees!