Poor Hand Hygiene Will Kill Your Catering Business: Here’s How

hand wash

We can never stress enough the importance of observing good hand hygiene.

Moreso for food handlers. Hand hygiene is one of the major safe food handling procedures.

Therefore, as a caterer, you need to nurture good hand hygiene within your establishment.

Can you really afford not to? Not so much!

Hand hygiene is a life-saving practice.


Here are some fascinating facts on hand hygiene:

  • 80% of communicable diseases are transferred by touch
  • The most critical times to observe hand hygiene is before preparing food and after visiting the washrooms

Surprisingly enough, only 20% of people wash their hands before preparing food. (Think about your restaurant, and do the math).

Something must be done.

But wait a minute. What if your efforts to instil a habit of hand washing amongst your food handlers backfires?

You see, people often take the line of least resistance as soon as the effect of training wears off.

Then you end with the Hawthorne effect among other hand hygiene non-compliance issues.

But fret not. You are not alone. This scenario has always been a tough nut to crack for most of the food industry managers and supervisors.

On the other hand, customers trust you. They trust that you will serve them food that’s safe for consumption.

Therefore, you have no other option except to meet food safety compliance guidelines.

You need to prepare for the worst.

Imagine, a single case of food poisoning can damage your reputation and ultimately kill your business.

Are you ready to risk it all and lose your business? We don’t think so!

Instead, you’d want to prevent any possible food poisoning scenario from happening. Or any other hygiene-related issues from ever happening.

Therefore, let’s talk about:

  • Legal liability,
  • Bad examples,
  • Proper hand washing technique
  • Ways to drive home the message to your staffers. (Enough to put you on the right track).

Table of Content

✔Learn From Bad Examples

  • A 1995 Garibaldi Case
  • A 2007 Food Poisoning Incident
  • A 2015 Wedding Reception Incident

✔ Understand Your Legal Responsibilities and Know Potential Legal Repercussions

  • What Are Your Responsibilities if You Think You Have Caused Food to Be Contaminated?
  • Can You Be Sued for Food Poisoning in Australia?

✔ Hand Hygiene in Catering: How to Do It Right?

  • What Are Good Personal Hygiene Practices in the Commercial Kitchen?
  • When Should Food Handlers Wash Their Hands?
  • What Are the Hand Washing Procedures for Food Handlers?

✔ Keep Your Staff Washrooms Spic and Span

✔ Hire a Reliable Hygiene Service

1. Learn From Bad Examples

Singapore continues to experience isolated and mass cases of foodborne and water-borne diseases. Also known as food poisoning.

Disease-causing bacteria and viruses such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria, Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Norovirus (winter vomiting virus) are the prime culprits for food poisoning.

Check out the trouble spots within Singapore. The diagram shows locations of food outlets that have received suspension notices from NEA between June 2016 and May 2017.

Singapore map

These outbreaks were chiefly caused by customers ingesting contaminated foods.

But the major cross-contamination factor is the person-to-food-to-person transmission.

Whatever the mode of transmission, serving unsafe food will cost you resources, lawsuits and your business reputation. This can literally spell disaster for your business.

But guess what? You can learn from real-life examples rather than only relying on the textbook.

That will give you a head start. It’ll also give you insights into what to watch out for and how to handle customer complaints against you.

Below are a few examples of food businesses involved in cases of food poisoning.

Prima Deli, 2007

Prima Deli was found guilty for serving hazelnut paste that was contaminated with enteridis bacteria. Over 150 people suffered from food poisoning.

Geylang Serai Establishment, 2009

A food establishment in the area of Geylang Serai served its customers with contaminated Indian Rojak. The unfortunate aftermath was over 100 people suffering from food poisoning.

Worse still, as a result, a woman suffered a coma for a significant period.

Mr Tan, 2015

A technician by the name Mr Tan consumed contaminated fish that resulted in severe food poisoning. It effects were so dire and he had no other option than to undergo total amputation. He lost both his hands and feet.

Watch this quick video. Evidently, food poisoning is a major concern.

2. Know Your Legal Responsibilities as a Caterer in Singapore and Understand Legal Consequences for Non-Compliance

Leave the guesswork out when it comes to legal matters – if you mean to protect your eating establishment, along with your customers.

Not knowing your legal obligations when it comes to food safety can translate fast enough into not knowing what hit you.

And that must be the last thing you want.

The National Environment Agency has established food hygiene standards in Singapore that you must endeavour to adhere to.

You can also view the track record of eating establishments while at it.

It branches out into two respective standards:

The responsibility is shared between those who superintend and those who come into physical contact with food. No one is spared.

To that end, infection control procedures should be in place in your food areas to avoid code violation and fines when you get inspected by the state food authority.

What Are Your Responsibilities if You Think You Have Caused Food to Be Contaminated?

Your managers and staff need to have the following issue constantly on their mind. Serving unsafe food to customers potentially leads to tragic outcomes and has a hugely negative impact on your business.

Yet, once it’s happened, it’s critical to act quickly and reduce the damage as much as possible.

If you suspect you’ve been selling contaminated or spoiled food to your customers, these are the steps you should take:

  • Immediately stop further sales
  • Withdraw and recall unsafe food
  • Report the case of food contamination/foodborne illness to food authorities
  • Announce the case of food contamination/spoilage through media release: paper, TV or online channels
  • Investigate the causes of contamination
  • Put measures in place to prevent food poisoning recurrence. Reevaluate your food safety practices and put more effective ones in place

Moreover, if a food handler suspects their actions might have caused food to be unsafe to consume, they should urgently report the matter to their supervisor.

Chances are you are wondering:

Can you be sued for a case of food poisoning? And if you are, what exactly are indicative cases for legal retribution?

Let’s address that issue next.

Can Your Food Business Be Sued for Food Poisoning in Singapore?

A commercial caterer can be sued for food poisoning, negligence or premise liability under the public liability law.

If a customer proves the bout of food poisoning is due to food your establishment prepared, they may have a case against you.

In which case you will be liable to pay compensation to the eligible party for costs incurred for the medical treatment needed.

Costs you might be liable to cover include:

  • medical bills
  • lost work income cost
  • hospital visit expenses
  • cost of non-economic damages, such as mental anguish

3. Hand Hygiene in Catering: How to Do It Right?

The longest-lasting commercial caterers with unblemished food handling record have mastered these two things:

  • How to introduce good food safety and hygiene practices
  • How to keep improving adherence to these practices

Proper hand washing technique is the single most effective way to prevent foodborne illnesses in commercial catering. Skipping it or merely underwashing equals to  compromising your customers’, your colleagues’ and your own health.

Food professionals’ personal hygiene, staff illness control management and proper hand hygiene should be at the top of the agenda of any commercial catering business including yours.

What Are Good Personal Hygiene Practices in the Commercial Kitchen?

Personal hygiene is very important for food handlers. Microbes are everywhere. And while most of them won’t harm your customers, there are those that can make them very sick.

Even bacteria that are commonly found in humans, that might not necessarily cause infection, such as Staphylococcus aureus can be harmful in some cases. It can trigger disease in customers if their skin is damaged or injured.

All professionals employed in the food service industry, especially those that are likely to come into contact with ‘unwrapped food’ should follow good personal hygiene practices.

Besides washing their hands, food handlers should stick to the following personal hygiene rules:

  • Wear clean clothes and change them daily. Change into clean, comfortable, and stylish work attire each day you arrive at work.
  • Wear hair and beard restraints. Professional hats prevent hair from falling into food and food professionals from touching their hair and spreading contaminants onto food in this way.
  • Clip your fingernails regularly. Keeping fingernails neat and free of nail polish makes them easier to clean with a nail brush. Bacteria loves hiding on such surfaces. Therefore, make sure you clean under the fingernails when washing hands.
  • Keep all cuts and sores covered. Use waterproof bandages, gloves or finger stalls to prevent any wound secretion from coming into contact with food.
  • Do not wear jewellery. Food residue can stick to bracelets and rings and then fall back into food when deteriorated. In case you are wearing jewellery, it’s mandatory that you wear protective gloves.
  • Keep facial hair neat. Both food preparation and food service staff should keep hair neatly tied back and facial hair covered.
  • Report personal health issues to supervisor. If you’re suffering from a communicable disease you should stop handling food until you’ve recovered. Also, immediately notify your supervisor about your health condition.
  • Practice proper sneezing and coughing etiquette. Do not cough or sneeze over food that’s being prepared or over food preparation surfaces.

When Should Food Handlers Wash Hands?

Wash your hands. You know where you've been!







You should employ corrective measures if you notice any incorrect hand washing practices in your food area.

To minimise the spread of communicable diseases to your customers, your food preparation workers should wash their hands whenever there’s a risk of contaminating the food.

To do so, you need to provide them with accessible hand washing and drying facilities first of all. And that includes:

  • Hygienic hand drying solutions: paper hand towels and dispensers, automatic paper towel roll dispensers,
  • Soap dispensers
  • Consumables such as bath soap, hand sanitiser, etc.

Your food professionals should wash their hands:

  • Each time they visiting the toilet
  • Every single time they’re handling ready-to-eat food after working with raw food
  • Anytime they transition from food handling tasks to other tasks and vice versa
  • After coughing and sneezing into their hand or after using a disposable tissue
  • After eating, drinking, or smoking
  • After touching a body opening such as their hair or scalp

What Are Hand Washing Procedures for Food Handlers?

Do your food handlers wash their hands properly?

Unfortunately, most people are prone to negligence and as a result, your business can suffer from lowered hygiene standards as time goes by.

To that end, food establishments typically provide staff refresher training.

So, if you want to see your hygiene standards improve, you’ll need to offer continuous education, good adherence program and use these free hand washing posters as visual reminders for your staff.

Now, below are the recommended hand washing steps food professionals should follow when working around food:

  • Use dedicated hand washing facilities for hand washing before handling food
  • Wet your hands with warm running water and scrub them using soap for a minimum of 20 seconds
  • Pay attention to crevices on your hands such as areas between fingers and underneath fingernails
  • Rinse your hands for 20 seconds
  • Dry your hands well using a disposable paper towel or a continuous cloth towel

Use disposable nail brushes and a hand sanitiser if your hands aren’t visibly soiled

hand wash

4. Keep Your Staff Washrooms Spick and Span

And last but not least, keep your washroom supplies replenished at all times to prevent faecal contaminants from getting into food. You don’t want your staff contaminating the food with what they pick up in the washroom, right?

So keeping your staff washrooms regularly replenished with basic hygiene requirement such as soap and paper towel dispensers is clearly beneficial to the health of your customers and the lifespan of your business.

But investing in the washroom upkeep also keeps your staff healthy and pays for itself in reduced sick leave.

Hire a Reliable Hygiene Service

For commercial caterers leaving hygiene to chance means putting your business at risk. And the stakes are high. So, you need to do everything in your power to set the bar high.

Even if it means hiring professionals to step in. And sometimes that’s exactly what you need when your business is in full swing.

Subscribing to Alsco’s health and hygiene services and leaving your washroom to us frees up your time so you can go about your business and do some really important stuff.

Want to know the best part?

Food service businesses can rely on us for not only commercial washroom supplies but also for catering linen, chef uniforms and aprons, first aid services, among other unmatched services.

Contact us today and we’ll do all that there is to tailor our services to your specific needs.

Disclaimer: The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice.

Photo courtesy of Health Hub
Photo courtesy of Pexel by Burst

Posted on | Posted in Alsco News

Disclaimer – These articles are provided to supply general health, safety, and green information to people responsible for the same in their organisation. The articles are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs.