Foodhandlers are important sources of contamination in the agricultural environment. This study was conducted (i) to evaluate the activity of antimicrobial soaps against Escherichia coli and Enterococcus faecalis using a hand washing model with soiled hands and (ii) to determine the survival and persistence of these bacteria in rinsates. Sterilized agricultural soil from tomato and pepper farms was inoculated with E. coli or E. faecalis at 103 or 106 CFU/g. Decontaminated hands were placed in contact with contaminated soil for 2 min and were then washed with soaps with or without antimicrobial compounds (citric extracts, chloroxylenol, triclosan, or chlorhexidine gluconate). As the control, hands were washed with sterile distilled water. The levels of bacteria remaining on the hands and recovered from the rinsates were determined using a membrane filtration method and selective media. Antimicrobial soaps removed levels of E. coli similar to those removed by distilled water and nonantimicrobial soap on hands contaminated with E. coli at 103 CFU/g. However, when hands were contaminated with E. coli at 106 CFU/g, more E. coli was removed with the chlorhexidine gluconate soap. When hands were contaminated with E. faecalis at 103 CFU/g, bacteria were removed more effectively with soaps containing chloroxylenol or chlorhexidine gluconate. When hands were contaminated with E. faecalis at 106 CFU/g, all of the antimicrobial soaps were more effective for removing the bacteria than were distilled water and nonantimicrobial soap. E. coli grew in all of the hand washing rinsates except that containing triclosan, whereas E. faecalis from the 106 CFU/g treatments grew in rinsates containing chlorhexidine gluconate and in the distilled water rinsates. Washing with antimicrobial soap was more effective for reducing bacteria on soiled hands than was washing with water or nonantimicrobial soap. However, persistence or growth of bacteria in these rinsates poses health risks.

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