I’ve spent the summer on the east coast alongside my classmate Stephan, while we do internships for school. Though we have similar interests in veterinary medicine, we have very different philosophies about food safety. I am a bit like Monk, at times going overboard on cleanliness and my tendency to be a “germaphobe” with excessive handwashing.
Stephan represents the other side of the spectrum, more of a “the more bugs I’m exposed to, the more my immunity builds.” This is definitely a valid viewpoint. Hand sanitizer opponents say that antibacterial soaps and gels may cause more harm than good. They remove bad bacteria, but can also remove the good bacteria, the bacteria that protect skin surfaces from the bad bacteria. Antibacterials may also help breed drug-resistant bacteria.
It’s a tricky tightrope to walk. Washing your hands before eating is a good way to reduce your risk of foodborne illness, but removing too much beneficial bacteria from skin surfaces or gut can leave the body more susceptible to harmful bacteria and may cause allergic or autoimmune reactions.
The bottom line is that regular soap works great in moderation, and it should always be used before consuming food or sticking your fingers in your mouth. What kind of soap is best? I tend to lean towards the foaming liquid soap, mostly because it comes in great scents, but basically soap is better than no soap. Follow Doug’s mantra to wash your hands and don’t eat poop.