Failure to make councils check school toilets ‘risks poisoning’

Whenever there’s an outbreak of norovirus or some other tummy upset that forces large numbers of students to call in sick, check the bathrooms.

Are the tools for proper handwashing – running water, soap and paper towel – actually available?

And while a report titled, A Response to School Toilets: Best Practice Guidance for Primary and Secondary Schools in Wales, may not make exciting bathroom reading, continual attention to hygiene basics consistently reduces the numbers of people barfing.

Consumer Focus Wales (CFW) made the same point today, arguing that children face an increased risk of contracting and spreading deadly bugs because councils will not be forced to check school toilet hygiene.

As part of the South Wales E.coli public inquiry, Professor Hugh Pennington recommended that every council should have a program of audits to ensure all schools have adequate toilet and handwashing facilities.

Jennie Bibbings, CFW’s senior policy advocate, said: “In the current financial climate school toilets might be a low priority but hygiene standards could suffer and the risk of illness among school children increases.

The public inquiry into the 2005 E. coli O157 outbreak in South Wales heard shocking evidence about the state of school toilets. In some of the schools in the outbreak area there was no running hot water or even soap for children to wash their hands.

Peter Clarke, Wales’ first Children’s Commissioner, had highlighted concerns about the lack of soap and toilet paper in some schools in 2004 – a year before butcher William Tudor caused the E.coli O157 outbreak.

And his successor Mr Towler again highlighted the sub-standard facilities in his third annual report last year.

“Currently I’m seeing inequality across the country with some schools having made considerable improvement while other pupils feel so strongly about it they refuse to use the toilet during the school day.”

Consumer Focus Wales said it should also include standards for staff facilities because successive food hygiene inspection reports have revealed variable performance among school canteens in the provision of hand washing facilities.”

Don’t eat poop, works for kids

Our two-year old, Sorenne, has been reluctant to wash her hands lately. Today during a particularly messy diaper change, she reached down to see what was going on, got poop on her index finger, and decided to wipe it on my forearm saying, “Blech, poop yucky!”

I decided this was a good time to try the “don’t eat poop” slogan. I explained to Sorenne, “Don’t put your fingers in your mouth. Poop will make you sick. Don’t eat poop, ok?” She repeated, “Don’t eat poop!” enthusiastically. I added a little explanation that included her favorite French iPod app, “Feed me!” and reminded her that the monster gets sick when he eats something bad. “Turn green!” she chimed in. “Yuck. Don’t like it!”

That’s what happens if you eat poop, Sorenne. You’ll get sick. So wash your hands. And for the first time in ages, she very happily washed her hands with soap. 

Handwashing studies offer conflicting results

I’m confused with these conflicting handwashing studies.

And, as Les Nessman of WKRP in Cinncinatti said, when I get confused, I watch television. It somehow makes things simple. Television is never confusing.

This morning it was alcohol-based sanitizers didn’t do much to limit the spread of the H1N1 virus, but worked well against cold viruses (the sanitizers also sorta suck against norovirus).

Later today, it was the results of another of those creepy make-grad-students-hang –out-in-public-bathrooms studies, to see if people actually wash their hands, which found that 85 per cent of adults washed their hands in public restrooms, the highest number since the studies began in 1996.

But it’s a far cry from the 96% of adults who say they always wash their hands in public restrooms, based on a separate telephone survey conducted at the same time.

Men do a lot worse than women overall — just 77% scrubbed up, compared with 93% of women.

The study was sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute (formerly the Soap and Detergent Association). It involved discreetly observing 6,028 adults in public restrooms in August to see whether they washed their hands.

Great. More people are attempting to wash their hands. But are they doing it correctly? Does any attempt count, or only if handwashing is done according to government prescriptions. What is the best way to wash hands? Can’t people with PhDs agree?


A study by researchers at the University of Bradford and published in the current Journal of Applied Microbiology evaluated three kinds of hand drying and their effect on transfer of bacteria from the hands to other surfaces: paper towels, traditional hand dryers, which rely on evaporation, and a new model of hand dryer, which rapidly strips water off the hands using high velocity air jets.??

In this study the researchers quantified the effects of hand drying by measuring the number of bacteria on different parts of the hands before and after different drying methods. Volunteers were asked to wash their hands and place them onto contact plates that were then incubated to measure bacterial growth. The volunteers were then asked to dry their hands using either hand towels or one of three hand dryers, with or without rubbing their hands together, and levels of bacteria were re-measured.

The researchers found the most effective way of keeping bacterial counts low, when drying hands, was using paper towels. Amongst the electric dryers, the model that rapidly stripped the moisture off the hands was best for reducing transfer of bacteria to other surfaces.

Yet tomorrow’s N.Y. Times reports it’s a draw, and that “the best available evidence suggests that as far as germs go, the method of drying is less important than the amount of time invested: the longer the better.”

So my pants would be fine as long as I used them enough.

Dr. O. Peter Snyder at the St. Paul-based Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management summarized key aspects of handwashing and drying in a paper available at, Snyder says that after hands are washed and rinsed, they must be thoroughly dried.

Blow dryers should not be used because they accumulate microorganisms from toilet aerosols, and can cause contamination of hands as they are dried by the drier (Knights, et al., 1993; Redway,et al., 1994).

Snyder notes that it is also apparent that many individuals do not dry their hands thoroughly when using a blow drier; hence, moisture, which is conducive to microbial growth, remains on hands, or people dry their hands on their clothing.

Proper handwashing requires access to the proper tools – and that means vigorously running water, soap and paper towel.

We’ve reviewed the literature on handwashing and how best to motivate people to wash hands, and conclude in a paper to be published shortly that,

“Although the role of hand hygiene in preventing infectious disease is well recognized, studies repeatedly show that compliance remains low. … Education and training have been cited often as essential to developing and maintaining hand hygiene compliance but, with few exceptions, this approach has not produced sustained improvement. … Hand hygiene was enhanced by provoking emotive sensations of discomfort, unpleasantness and disgust. Evidence suggests handwashing is a ritualized behavior mainly carried out as self-protection from infection and that patterns of handwashing behavior are likely established in childhood. Therefore, interventions that focus on culture, perception and behavior change may prove to be the most successful. How that success is measured must be carefully considered, as there is no standardized method for measuring hand hygiene compliance and current techniques have significant limitations.”

The cursed 3 compartment sink method

I have finally decided to give my body a break and cut down on the amount of caffeine I consume daily. The problem is that I am not a morning kinda’ guy and when restaurant operators decide to tell me just how much they like me when I visit, I look like Christopher Walken ready to snap. This morning I decided to visit a local mom and pop restaurant to perform a routine inspection. These smaller type of establishments typically use the 3 compartment sink method for dishwashing as commercial dishwashers are not required. I feel that staff are not compelled to wash dishes using this method which includes washing with soap and water, rinsing, sanitizing (i.e. 50 ppm chlorine), and as a final step air drying, especially when the boss isn’t kicking around.  A commercial dishwasher equipped with an approved sanitation cycle would be more appropriate. So when I asked the owner how the dishes are washed, he cursed, then gave me the wrong answer.

 There seems to be a tendency for operators to mix soap with chlorine in the sanitizing step of the method, that is, in the third sink prior to air drying. In doing so, the sanitizer is not operating at its full potential. Soap is alkaline in nature as it uses sodium and potassium hydroxides to make surfactants. Bleach (chlorine) operates optimally at lower pH’s therefore added soap will decrease the efficacy of the bleach and should not be used.


Cold water is fine for washing hands – soap and vigor are the critical components

“Hot water for handwashing has not been proved to remove germs better than cold water.”

That’s the conclusion of The Claim column in tomorrow’s N.Y. Times science section.

We’ve been saying for a couple of years that water temperature is not a critical factor — water hot enough to kill dangerous bacteria and viruses would scald hands — so use whatever is comfortable. Warmer water may be better at removing oils and stuff, but not the things that make people sick.

The Times story says,

In its medical literature, the Food and Drug Administration states that hot water comfortable enough for washing hands is not hot enough to kill bacteria, but is more effective than cold water because it removes oils from the hand that can harbor bacteria.

But in a 2005 report in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, scientists with the Joint Bank Group/Fund Health Services Department pointed out that in studies in which subjects had their hands contaminated, and then were instructed to wash and rinse with soap for 25 seconds using water with temperatures ranging from 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 120 degrees, the various temperatures had “no effect on transient or resident bacterial reduction.”

They found no evidence that hot water had any benefit, and noted that it might increase the “irritant capacity” of some soaps, causing contact dermatitis.

“Temperature of water used for hand washing should not be guided by antibacterial effects but comfort,” they wrote, “which is in the tepid to warm temperature range. The usage of tepid water instead of hot water also has economic benefits.”

Can you wash your hands too much?

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.

Obama says – dude, wash hands to contain swine flu

When asked about swine flu – oh, sorry, the H1N1 flu – U.S. President Barack Obama said during his prime-time 100-day press commencement conference that handwashing and staying at home if sick were key to controlling any potential spread of flu.

As we’ve said, proper handwashing with the proper tools — soap, water and paper towel — can significantly reduce the number of foodborne and other illnesses, even the emerging swine flu.

The steps in proper handwashing, as concluded from the preponderance of available evidence, are:

• wet hands with vigorously flowing water;

• use enough soap to build a good lather;

• scrub hands vigorously, creating friction and reaching all areas of the fingers and hands for at least 10 seconds to loosen pathogens on the fingers and hands;

• rinse hands with thorough amounts of water while continuing to rub hands; and

• dry hands vigorously with paper towel.

If any of the tools for handwashing are missing, let someone know.

However, even with reminders and access to the proper tools, not everyone will practice good hygiene. Those signs that say, ‘Employees Must Wash Hands’ don’t always work. We’re working in settings like high schools and hospitals to figure out the best way to not only tell people to wash their hands, but to use new media and messages to really compel individuals to wash their hands.

A video is available at:

and a poster at

No Soap at Subway

Courtlynn’s here and that meant a quick meal at Subway last night on our way home from the airport. The restaurant was fairly deserted and we only saw one male employee working. After we received our order to go, I ducked into the women’s restroom. While washing my hands, I reached for the soap and saw the sign pictured here. I rinsed with water and hoped the friction from the paper towel would be of some benefit. But I’m not serving meals to others and only had to hand Doug his sandwich in the car before eating my half. Proper handwashing requires the proper tools: water, soap, paper towels.

Katie, a.k.a. the woman who lives under our stairs, used to be a sandwich artist at Subway in the Soo. She says they got “into a lot of shit” if they didn’t keep the soap dispensers filled.

Eat fresh. Use soap.

Water, soap and paper towel: Aggieville bars have the handwashing tools

As part of the first Global Handwashing Day, students Mayra Rivarola and Skyler Wilkinson visited 11 restaurant bathrooms in Aggieville, Manhattan (Kansas) to ensure patrons were at least provided the tools to properly wash their hands.

All of the bathrooms rated highly. Only 1-of-the-11 had a failure, a lack of paper towel.

So, wash your damn hands. And don’t eat poop.

NZ cafe served dishwashing liquid instead of wine

Two women were hospitalised after a New Zealand cafe mistakenly served dishwashing liquid as mulled wine.

The Southland Times newspaper reported that Chico’s Restaurant Ltd in the mountain resort of Queenstown on South Island pleaded guilty to a charge of selling food containing extraneous matter — the chemical sodium hydroxide — that caused injury.

An investigation showed the two liquids had been mixed up after 20 litres of dishwashing liquid was delivered in a container formerly used to hold Mountain Thunder mulled wine.

Under New Zealand’s no-fault accident law, victims do not sue for damages. Instead, treatment costs and income loss are met by the nation’s Accident Compensation scheme.

The company will be sentenced next month and faces a possible fine.