Food Safety

Published on July 30th, 2009 | by Cate Nelson


Ew! Half of Fast Food Workers Don’t Wash Hands

We know you eat better than stopping at every fast food joint on the road. Good thing, too. Because an FDA official claims that over half of fast food employees don’t follow the “Wash your hands before returning to work” rule.

That could make a whole lot of people sick with more than just obesity.

The FDA official, William Burkhardt, authored a study that was also sponsored by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

There’s a disconnect between what we want to see and what is actually implemented.

This report follows a rare Hepatitis A outbreak in the Quad City, Illinois area, according to the Quad City Times.


The FDA food virologist says that restaurant workers need to wash their hands for the proper amount of time (hint: sing “Happy Birthday” while you wash and you’re good) and/or wear gloves.

Though Burkhardt says that outbreaks like the one above don’t happen a lot, they can be avoided,

Norovirus, hepatitis A and E. coli, another gastrointestinal infection, are the most common food-borne illnesses involving restaurants, Burkhardt said. Norovirus, like hepatitis A, is spread by fecal matter on food products that are then ingested by unaware patrons. However, the hepatitis A symptoms might not show up for 10-14 days while those with norovirus know much more quickly, in as little as 12 hours after ingestion….

Those who ingest the hepatitis A virus need only a few particles to eventually become ill, according to the microbiologist. ‘Oftentimes, a hundred million of these viral particles are present in a gram of fecal material,’ he said.

It’s estimated that a between 25-30 percent of the population are affected by food borne illnesses annually. And these are “bugs” that can be prevented.

Yeah…let’s not have to discuss “fecal matter” when we talk about food, m’kay?!

Image: Wootang01 on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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About the Author

I'm a mama of two young boys and a wonderful, early teen stepdaughter. We live in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains in rural Virginia. We have a dozen Americana pullets and a rooster, and we're working toward a more sustainable lifestyle. It's awesome to watch my 4-year-old collect our hens' eggs! I love outdoor time with the kiddos, camping, reading, NPR, and writing.

3 Responses to Ew! Half of Fast Food Workers Don’t Wash Hands

  1. Megan says:

    Hi Cate, I’m not sure if I’m the only one seeing this, but you may want to edit this post. I see a bunch of code inserted in the third paragraph after “The FDA official,” might want to fix that. :)

  2. Steve Savage says:

    I’m not quite sure how someone could get that information, but perhaps its not surprising. When I’m at a fast food restaurant I only buy fries which are hot enough to not be an issue. Its my rare indulgence.

  3. Cate Nelson says:

    Thanks Megan! I didn’t see this on my preview of the article, and when I saw it this morning, it felt like my zipper was down! ;)

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