Properly executed hand washing by food service employees can greatly minimize the risk of transmitting foodborne pathogens to food and food contact surfaces in restaurants. However, food service employee hand washing is often not done correctly or does not occur as often as it should. The purpose of this study was to assess the relative impact of (i) the convenience and accessibility of hand washing facilities; (ii) the maintenance of hand washing supplies, (iii) multiunit status, (iv) having a certified food protection manager, and (v) having a food safety management system for compliance with proper hand washing. Results revealed marked differences in hand washing behaviors between fast-food and full-service restaurants; 45% of 425 fast-food restaurants and 57% of 396 full-service restaurants were out of compliance for washing hands correctly, and 57% of fast-food restaurants and 78% of full-service restaurants were out of compliance for employee hands being washed when required. Logistic regression results indicated the benefits of accessibility and maintenance of the hand washing sink and of a food safety management system for increasing the likelihood of employees washing hands when they are supposed to and washing them correctly when they do.

  • Most restaurant employees do not wash their hands correctly or when they should.

  • Large differences in hand washing were found between fast-food and full-service restaurants.

  • Food safety management systems are recommended for hand washing compliance.

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