Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me…..

Have you ever sung the Happy Birthday song to yourself? 

If you have while washing your hands, you are in the minority, as researchers at Michigan State University found that only 5 percent of people wash their hands properly. If you are like me, you find this statistic very concerning. They also found that 15 percent of men didn’t wash their hands at all. During my travels across the country, I am sad to say that this seems to be true. Why don’t people wash their hands? The top three reasons stated are the use of hand sanitizer, no soap, and no paper towels in the restroom. Now let’s break that down. Hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol is to be used in addition to hand washing. Now if there really is not soap, then rinse your hands then use the aforementioned hand sanitizer. The lack of paper towels is annoying but should not stop someone from washing their hands. You don’t need the paper towels unless you are getting your hands wet. There is not a plausible excuse for not washing your hands. By not washing your hands you are helping spread infectious diseases.

Infectious diseases are effectively transmitted to others by touching common surfaces in our environment. We then touch our eyes, nose, and mouth. There is more fecal material in the kitchen sink than the toilet. 10 percent of the sponges in America have salmonella. The cutting board is also another area of concern, wooden cutting boards have been found to hold blood and juices. We also bring raw meat and other items into the kitchen without any real concern about the proper sanitization. Dr. Charles Gerba has a Ted Talk about this that is bound to make you think twice. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RhiHQne63I

Proper hand washing has been described as the “newest vaccine” by Dr. Gerba. He states that this is a good way to defend against ALL respiratory and many gastrointestinal infections. Proper hand washing as stated by the Center for Disease Control(CDC):

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air-dry them.

Food service workers can prevent foodborne infections by washing their hands. The CDC reports that “Each year in the United States, an estimated 76 million persons contract foodborne illnesses,” More than 300,000 are hospitalized and 5000 Americans die each year from foodborne illness. The cumulative costs are estimated to be as much as 17 billion dollars. Even with all the advances in food technology, 80 percent of the illness occurs in a commercial or institutional environment. According to Dr. Will Sawyer, http://www.henrythehand.com/ some hints to prevent foodborne illness:


  1. WASH your hands when they are dirty and BEFORE eating.
  2. DO NOT cough into your hands.
  3. DO NOT sneeze into your hands.
  4. Above all, DO NOT put your fingers into your eyes, nose or mouth!

Wash hands frequently when preparing foods.

Hand washing and prevention of cross-contamination are the two easiest ways to prevent the spread of foodborne illness. Vigilance about hand washing is the responsibility of everyone.

In order to have more Happy Birthday’s, we need to ensure that all that can be done is being done to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses, respiratory infections, and gastrointestinal issues.

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