3. Personal Hygiene

The Safe Food Handler

Food handlers can contaminate food when they:

  • Have a foodborne illness
  • Have wounds that contain a pathogen
  • Have contact with a person who is sick
  • Touch anything that may contaminate their hands and don’t wash them
  • Have symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, or jaundice

Actions that can contaminate food

  • Scratching the scalp
  • Running fingers through the hair
  • Wiping or touching the nose
  • Rubbing an ear
  • Touching a pimple or infected wound
  • Wearing a dirty unirform or apron
  • Coughing or sneezing into the hand
  • Spitting in the operation

Managers must focus on the following:

  • Creating personal hygiene policies
  • Training food handlers on personal hygiene policies
  • Model the correct behavior at all times
  • Supervise food safety practices
  • Revise personal hygiene policies on a regular basis

Work Attire – Food handlers must:

  • Wear a clean hat or other hair restraint
  • Wear clean clothing daily
  • Remove aprons when leaving food-preparation areas
  • Remove jewelry from hands and arms before prepping food

The restriction for jewelry also covers a medical alert bracelet although a medical alert necklace or anklet may be used.

Food Handlers must not Eat, Drink, Smoke, or Chew Gum or Tobacco when:

  • Prepping or serving food
  • Working in prep areas
  • Working in areas used to clean utensils and equipment

Hand Washing and Glove Use

Proper steps to wash hands:
  1. Wet hands with running water as hot as you can comfortably stand (at least 100°F/38°C)
  2. Apply soap
  3. Vigorously scrub hands and arms for 10 to 15 seconds. Clean under fingernails and between fingers
  4. Rinse thoroughly under running water
  5. Dry hands with a single-use paper towel or warm-air dryer. Use a paper towel to turn off faucet and open restroom door.

Hand Washing Stations

Hand washing stations are required to have the following:

  1. Hot water at a minimum of 100°F/38°C
  2. Soap
  3. A way to dry hands – either a single-use paper towel or warm-air dryer
  4. Waste receptacle (for disposal of paper towels)
  5. Proper signage (Employees must wash hands before returning to work).

Hand sanitizers and nail brushes are optional

Food handlers must wash their hands BEFORE they start work and AFTER:

  • Using the restroom
  • Handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood
  • Touching hair, face, or body
  • Sneezing, coughing, or using a tissue
  • Eating drinking, smoking, or chewing gum or tobacco
  • Handling chemicals that might affect food safety
  • Taking out garbage
  • Clearing tables or busing dirty dishes
  • Touching dirty clothing or aprons
  • Handling money
  • Leaving and returing to the kitchen/prep area
  • Handling service animals or aquatic animals
  • Touching anything that may contaminate hands
Hand antiseptics
Must comply with the CFR and FDA standards and must NEVER be used in place of hand washing
Keep fingernails short & clean, do NOT wear false nails, do NOT wear nail polish
Infected wounds or cuts
Must be covered and how a wound is covered depends on its location:
Location Type of Coverage
Hand or wrist Impermeable cover and a single-use glove
Arm Impermeable cover
Other parts of the body Tight-fitting bandage

Single-use Gloves

  • Must be used when handling ready-to-eat food except:
    1. When washing produce
    2. Handling ingredients for an entry that will be fully cooked
  • Must never be used in place of handwashing
  • Must never be washed and reused
  • Must fit properly


When to change gloves

  • As soon as they become dirty or torn
  • Before beginning a different task
  • After an interruption, i.e. phone call
  • After handling raw meat, seafood, or poultry and before handling ready-to-eat food

Bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food must be avoided.

Some jurisdictions allow it but require: Policies on staff health, training in hand washing and personal hygiene practices. NEVER handle ready-to-eat food with bare hands when you primarily serve a high-risk population.

HandlingStaff Illnesses

If: Then:
The food handler has a sore throat and fever
  • Restrict from working with or around food
  • Exclude from work if serving a high-risk population
The food handler is vomiting and/or diarrhea1
  • Exclude the food handler from the operation
The food handler has jaundice or a foodborne illness2
  • Exclude the food handler from the operation
  • Report to the local regulatory authority

1A food handler who is vomiting or has diarrhea must not return to work unless they have had no symptoms for 24 hours OR a written release from a medical professional.

2A food handler with jaundice or one who has been diagnosed with a foodborne illness must be reported to the local regulatory authority and cannot return to work until you receive a written release from a medical authority AND approval from the local regulatory authority