1 in 5 Australians don’t wash their hands enough

Want to avoid a stomach ache or flu? It could be as simple as washing your hands. Using running water, soap and drying hands thoroughly as part of good handwashing is a basic but essential public health message that is becoming lost over time.

In the lead up to Australian Food Safety Week 2019, which will be held from 9 to 16 November 2019, the Food Safety Information Council has released findings that more than 20% of Australians admit that they don’t always wash their hands after going to the toilet.

The public health risk could be even greater as nearly 40% of respondents also admitted that they don’t always wash their hands before touching food.

The research shows young people are less likely than older age groups to always wash their hands after going to the toilet (69% under 34 years versus 86% over 50 years) and before touching food (59% under 34 versus 63% over 50). Poor handwashing knowledge among young people is also a concern as many casual jobs taken up in this age group can involve food handling in the hospitality industry. Men are also less likely than women to always wash their hands after going to the toilet.

This behaviour could be contributing to the estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning each year not to mention spreading viral infections such as cold, influenza and norovirus according to the Food Safety Information Council.

The Mayor of Hawkesbury, Councillor Barry Calvert is encouraging the Hawkesbury to share the important message about good handwashing.

“The point is that we all need to ensure that we use proper hygiene not only for ourselves but for the benefit of others too,” Mayor Calvert said.

“It’s about keeping our communities healthy. If one person washes their hands but others don’t, then that person can still get sick from the poor hygiene habits of others.”

Hawkesbury City Council has created some handwashing stickers that are available free of charge to businesses, schools and community members at the front counter at Council’s Administration Building, 300 George Street, Windsor.

The Mayor recommends that we follow the Food Safety Information Council’s advice to always wash and dry your hands:

  • before handling, preparing and eating food
  • after touching raw meat, fish, shell eggs or poultry
  • after using the toilet, attending to children’s (or others) toileting and changing nappies
  • after blowing your nose
  • after touching a pet
  • after gardening.

Four simple tips for hand washing correctly:

1. Wet your hands and rub together well to build up a good lather with soap for at least 20 seconds and don’t forget to wash between your fingers and under your nails. You might have to use a nail brush

2. Rinse well under running water to remove the bugs from your hands

3. Dry your hands thoroughly on a clean towel for at least 20 seconds. Touching surfaces with moist             hands encourages bugs to spread from the surface to your hands

4. If no running water is available, use alcohol gel.

An instructional handwashing video and posters can be found here: https://foodsafety.asn.au/hand-washing-package

Australian Food Safety Week 2019 will be held 9 to 16 November 2019 to educate consumers about safe food handling. The 2019 theme will be ‘Excellent eggs – handle them safely’ following a number of recent Salmonella outbreaks.

Hawkesbury City Council has food safety facts sheets available at

https://www.hawkesbury.nsw.gov.au/environment/health-and-safety/environmental-health/food/food-fact-sheets

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