Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

  Food handlers have specific legal responsibilities and requirement related to their health and hygiene. These requirements relate to health and hygiene and have been included to ensure that food handlers take steps to avoid contaminating food. A food handler is anyone who handles food or items that may come into contact with food, such as eating and drinking utensils.

All food handlers are legally obliged to comply with the health and hygiene requirements set out in the Food Safety Standards.  

Food businesses must inform all food handlers of their health and hygiene obligations under the Food Safety Standards. To help food businesses comply with the requirement, a copy of the health and hygiene requirements has been included as part of this fact sheet. You could ask all food handlers to sign a form, to say that they have received this fact sheet and the attached requirements. This is a good way of keeping checks on who has been advised.

 It also provides evidence that this requirement has been fulfilled. You may want to delegate this responsibility to one person in your organisation so that a consistent approach is taken and no volunteers are missed. 

Health requirements 

If you are ill or have an infection you can easily transfer harmful bacteria or viruses to food. 

Do not handle food if: 

•  you are ill with vomiting, diarrhoea, fever or sore throat with fever; or 

•  your doctor has diagnosed that you have or carry a foodborne illness. 

If you have volunteered for an event and then become ill with any of the above symptoms, let the event organiser know that you can no longer work. This is very important, no matter how short-staffed the event may be. 

Food handlers who are ill can easily make food unsafe. Not only is it against the law, it is not worth the risk. If you start to feel unwell while you are at an event, stop handling food and let the event organiser know immediately.  

If you have: 

•  infected sores on your hands, arm or face; or 

•  any discharges from your ear, nose or eyes (such as a cold) 

you can continue to handle food provided you take extra precautions to prevent food being contaminated. 

For example, cover the skin sore or take medication to dry up the discharge.  

Hygiene requirements 

Each food handler must take all precautions to ensure that food or surfaces that come in contact with food are not contaminated by his or her body or anything he or she is wearing. This includes hair, saliva, mucus, sweat, blood, fingernails, clothes, jewelry or bandages.  

You are required to: 

•  avoid handling ready-to-eat food such as salads and cooked food—use tongs or other implements instead; 

•  wear clean outer clothing; 

•  make sure bandages and dressings on exposed parts of your body (such as the hands, arms or face) are covered with waterproof coverings; 

•  not eat over uncovered food or equipment and utensils; 

•  not sneeze, blow or cough over uncovered food or equipment and utensils; and 

•  not spit, smoke or chew tobacco where food is handled.

Hand washing 

The most important measure to protect food from contamination is proper handwashing because clean and dry hands limit the transfer of harmful organisms to food. The Food Safety Standards require food handlers to wash their hands 

whenever hands are likely to be a source of contamination of food, including: 

•  before handling food; 

•  between handling raw food and food that is ready to eat, such as cooked food and salads; 

•  after using the toilet; 

•  after smoking, coughing, sneezing, blowing the nose, eating or drinking; 

•  after touching hair, scalp, mouth, nose or ear canal; and 

•  after handling rubbish and other waste.

There are five steps that should be followed when washing hands. These are: 

•  wet hands under warm running water; 

•  soap hands, lathering well; 

•  rub thoroughly, including the wrists and between the fingers; 

•  rinse in clean water; and 

•  dry thoroughly on paper towel, leaving no moisture on the hands.