It may, at first, appear from Figure 15 that employee hygiene is not that important since only 4% responded that they had had an incident related to lack of handwashing or shoe/bootwashing. However, when this is compared with Figure 4 (page 3), it is seen that the percentage of respondents who had not had incidents (81%) roughly correlates with a calculation of the average of those who see all the listed factors of employee hygiene as being very important (78%).
This correlation of those seeing importance in employee hygiene and not having incidents would appear to support the regulations and standards requiring that food facilities take reasonable measures and precautions related to personal hygiene — and the requirements for employee training in the importance of employee health and hygiene (as discussed in the article on page 3). This is further reinforced by the survey responses on corrective action taken following an incident, with the most common action being that of increased training or retraining of employees (88%) (Figure 16).
Of the eight facilities that did have a related incident, none resulted in a recall, but all the facilities made improvements following the incident.
Second to the most common response of training/retraining was that of increased environmental testing (63%). The importance of this practice relates to both hand and foot cleanliness, as an employee who does not wash their hands prior to entering a food area can contaminate the food or a food-contact surface that they touch, which can be detected through environmental testing. To help reduce the potential of this, 38% of respondents added or increased their handwashing supervision or automation.
Additionally, because unclean footwear can track pathogens into food production zones, the environmental testing can help detect contamination before it impacts a food product. As such, it does appear that incidents caused respondents to realize the need for footwear sanitation, as more than half (63%) of those who had had a related incident made changes to their footwear policies — adding or increasing shoe/bootwashing (50%) or adding a captive-boot program (13%).
Protecting food from hand, foot, and ill-worker contamination is a regulatory requirement for the food industry, but with no two food facilities being exactly the same and options existing for this protection, no two company policies and practices will be exactly the same either. This appears to be particularly true in footwear sanitation, as it was the only hygiene factor of the survey which was not rated as important or very important for at least 94% of respondents.
However, the fact that 63% of those who had had related incidents implemented corrective action for footwear likely shows an increasing awareness of — and preventive controls for — the potential for footwear-related contamination. ?