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  The A to Z 2007 Edition

Did You Know?

It has been estimated that proper hand-washing could eliminate close to half of all cases of foodborne illness.

Women wash their hands more often than men (74% versus 61%).

A study of 305 school children found that youngsters who washed their hands 4 times a day had 24% fewer sick days due to respiratory illness and 51% fewer days due to upset stomach.

- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

List of Terms:  H 
(Return to Comprehensive List of Terms)

> Handwashing
The act of cleaning hands by applying soap and water, rubbing thoroughly, and then rinsing with water. This practice gets rid of dirt and germs.


One of the food safety rules is to wash hands in hot, soapy water. Does hot water kill bacteria?

Hot water that is comfortable for washing hands is not hot enough to kill bacteria. The body oils on your hands hold soils and bacteria, so hot or warm, soapy water is more effective than cold, soapy water at removing those oily soils and the bacteria in them.

How can I clean my hands when water is not available, such as when traveling or picnicking away from home?

You can use disposable wipes or a hand gel sanitizer. You use the gel without water. The alcohol in the gel kills the germs on your hands. You can find disposable wipes and hand gel sanitizers in most supermarkets and drugstores.

Food Safety Implication: Hands are the part of the body that are most exposed to micro-organisms because they touch many things every day. Some diseases are spread when disease-causing microorganisms on a person's hands get into food that he or she touches. When the food is eaten, the microorganisms enter the body and cause foodborne illness. Thorough handwashing with hot, soapy water prevents bacteria from transferring from hands to foods.

Food Safety Precautions:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with hot, soapy water (for kids' hands, use warm, soapy water instead). Thoroughly scrub hands, wrists, fingernails, and between fingers.
  • Wash hands before and after you prepare food and especially after preparing raw meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood.
  • Wash hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, handling pets, or when-ever you have touched something that may be contaminated.
  • Rinse and dry hands with a clean towel or consider using durable, disposable paper towels for drying hands, so germs are thrown away.

> Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP)
A science-based and systematic approach to prevent potential food safety problems by anticipating how biological, chemical, or physical hazards are most likely to occur and by installing appropriate measures to prevent them from occurring.

The Seven Principles of HACCP:

  1. Hazard Analysis - Identify steps in the food-production process where hazards could occur, assess their severity and human health risk, and determine a preventative measure.
  2. Determination of Critical Control Points - Identify critical control points in the process at which the potential hazard can be controlled or eliminated.
  3. Specification of Critical Limits - Institute control measures and establish criteria to measure control at those critical points. For example, minimum cooking times and temperatures could be established for a cooked food.
  4. Monitoring - Monitor critical control points by establishing procedures for how the critical measures will be monitored and who will be responsible.
  5. Corrective Actions - Take corrective action when the criteria are not being met, including disposal or reprocessing of the food in question and fixing the problem.
  6. Verification - Routinely check the system for accuracy to verify that it is functioning properly and consistently.
  7. Documentation - Establish effective record-keeping procedures that document and provide a historical record of the facility's food safety performance.

> Health and Human Services (HHS)
The Department of Health and Human Services is the United States government's principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are both a part of this agency.

> Healthy People 2010
A statement of national health objectives for the United States. Coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the agenda for this initiative is designed to identify the most significant preventable threats to health and to establish national goals to reduce these threats.

The food safety objective of this initiative is to reduce foodborne illness caused by key foodborne pathogens and educate consumers about good food safety practices.

> Hybridization
The process of interbreeding desirable traits found in plants or animals to create one offspring from 2 different breeds, varieties, species, or genera.

Did You Know?

Poor personal hygiene contributes to approximately 50% of all foodborne illness outbreaks.

> Hygiene
Practices, such as cleanliness and maintenance of skin, hair, and nails, that promote health and prevention of disease.

Food Safety Implication: It's important to practice good hygiene, especially handwashing, at home and while working in food-service facilities, so that food doesn't become contaminated with foodborne bacteria.

Food Safety Precautions:

  • Thoroughly wash hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling food. (See Handwashing.)
  • Keep skin, hair, and nails clean, especially when preparing, serving, and cooking foods.

Food Safety A to Z Reference Guide

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