Handwashing and sanitation: try to make the message meaningful

While Amy, Sorenne and I observed some sort of cross between The Hills and Real Housewives of Somewhere at a poolside party in Scottsdale, Arizona, some 2,300 Kansas State students were graduating this afternoon.

Hand sanitizers were apparently on the agenda as those who convocated were offered hand sanitizer before receiving their degree. The optional offering was apparently designed to ease flu fears. Seems reasonable enough, but do such offerings actually amplify rather than assuage concerns about swine flu, er, H1N1, or any other communicable disease?

If any of the thousands of family and friends who visited Kansas State today had wandered into the student union to use the washroom, they would have seen the sign pictured below. Megan discovered this about a week ago, and three of us read the sign and thought the disinfectant referred to some special kind of handwashing soap. Maybe we’re just handwashing geeks.

So Megan went on an investigative trek that finally led to AFFLAB Antimicrobial Lotion Soap. The company website does not list factual information about their soaps and the germ killing power it may have. In general, antimicrobial and antibacterial soaps do aid in the “eradication of germs” and washing hands properly helps as well. However, if no such soaps are available, non-antimicrobial or non-antibiotic soaps will also clean your hands. During handwashing, the act of rubbing hands vigorously together with soap, creating lather, then rinsing them, is what removes germs (or, for the science nerds, transient flora).

Then Amy looked over my shoulder and said, “the disinfectant is the stuff used to wash the bathroom floors.”


I do not know the purpose of the signs, and what message the signs were intended to convey, but they failed. And as Megan said, “ugly, unattractive signs aren’t going to increase hand hygiene.”

Let the Real Housewives of Orange County chime in on restaurant inspection grades

Having 10-day old baby Sorenne means a lot of sitting around. Seriously, the kid must have breastfed for 12 hours yesterday. And that means a lot of bad TV for Amy and Sorenne. Lately, it’s been a Real Housewives of Orange County marathon. I don’t know who lives like that and I don’t know what’s real about those people, but those ladies need to get their botoxed faces and fake boobies and restylane lips down to the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Despite a warning from the county grand jury, the Board once again declined Tuesday to impose a letter grading system designed to inform would-be diners about the health safety record of restaurants.

Supervisor Bill Campbell, who once owned a chain of Taco Bell franchises, said he thought it was unfair to punish restaurant owners with grades or color codes if they had corrected problems and met health standards.

Orange County does not require its 13,000 restaurants to post letter grades after health inspections. Instead, restaurants are required to post certificates showing that they have met food preparation and cleanliness standards or are scheduled for a reinspection because of past violations.

In May, the Orange County Grand Jury concluded that the county’s current system essentially keeps the public "in the dark" about a restaurant’s record and suggested the county’s Health Care Agency require restaurants to post letter grades so the public knows how they scored in their last safety inspections.

After watching the mish-mash of federal, state and local approaches to restaurant inspection in a number of western countries for the past decade, I can draw two broad conclusions:

• Anyone who serves, prepares or handles food, in a restaurant, nursing home, day care center, supermarket or local market needs some basic food safety training; and,

• the results of restaurant and other food service inspections must be made public.

Publicly available grading systems rapidly communicate to diners the potential risk in dining at a particular establishment and restaurants given a lower grade may be more likely to comply with health regulations in the future to prevent lost business.

More importantly, such public displays of information help bolster overall awareness of food safety amongst staff and the public — people routinely talk about this stuff. The interested public can handle more, not less, information about food safety.

And instead of waiting for politicians to take the lead, the best restaurants, those with nothing to hide and everything to be proud of, will go ahead and make their inspection scores available — today. Demand it ladies.