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Lower Handwash Water Temperature Minimum

Jim Mann's picture

Open the door to convenience, compliance and water savings.

The handwashing minimum water temperature in Section 5-202.12 of the Food Code, states " ... equipped to provide water at least 38°C (100°F) ..." This is interpreted by both operators and inspectors as the definitive base for effectiveness of the handwash while the goal is largely user comfort. All temperatures between a common ambient and 107°F are sufficiently comfortable. As to cleaning effectiveness, the body's 98.6°F quickly heats the soap and initial scrub-water. 

Suspended contaminants are easily and comfortably rinsed away at room temperature.

Operators would then more freely specify hygienic touch-free, water saving electronic faucets as they do in Europe - saving almost a gallon of water with each handwash. Right now, the Food Code interpretations are minimizing their use and the industry is wasting huge amounts of water.

Public Health Significance

More frequent handwashing protects both the public and staff. Professional kitchen and staff restroom faucet taps are easily contaminated and become a source of infecting others directly or via ready-to-eat food or drink. Visually contaminated taps clearly discourage handwashing. Electronic touch-free faucets provide an effective solution along with speed of delivery and protection against scalding. All these benefits encourage compliance.

If electronic faucets are used regularly, water temperature follows presets. If they are used rarely, the water will be delivered at ambient temperatures. An ambient temperature of 68oF is well within the comfort and effectiveness ranges.


We recommend that the CFP send a letter to the FDA recommending the 2013 Food Code be amended as follows (language to be deleted is in strikethrough format; language to be added is underlined)

Section 5-202.12 Handwashing Sink, Installation

(A) A HANDWASHING SINK shall be equipped to provide water at a temperature of at least 38°C (100°F) 20°c (68°F) through a mixing valve or combination faucet.


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