Handwashing Requirements in a Restaurant

Hand washing before handling food is the best way to prevent the spread of bacteria and other microorganisms that cause infections and food poisoning to occur. A person who is about to handle food, whether they plan to cook in a restaurant, prepare food in a deli, or cook a meal at home, should wash their hands before they touch any object related to food. In many countries, including the U.S., the law states that people who work in a commercial food handling setting, such as a restaurant kitchen, cafeteria, bakery, or deli counter, must wash their hands before or after certain activities.


How to Wash Your Hands: The Best Way

Any part of the hands and arms that could potentially touch food needs to be washed. To wash their hands, a person should first wet their hands and forearms with water. Next, they should add a dime-sized amount of soap. Regular soap works fine. Anti-bacterial soap does not need to be used.


To get the hands clean, the person should rub the soap over the surface of skin on the front and back of the hands, on the wrists, between the fingers and just under the nails. Friction and rubbing remove dirt from the hands. A person should lather with the soap for at least 20 seconds, away from the stream of water. After lathering for 20 seconds, the person should rinse the soap away with warm, running water. They should then dry their hands with a paper towel or a clean cloth towel. They should not rub their hands dry on their pants or an apron.


When Hand Washing Is Required

  • Employees must wash their hands right before they begin food preparation. This includes working with food equipment and utensils, handling unwrapped single-use utensils, such as disposable cups and spoons, and touching food that is not pre-packaged.
  • Hand Washing for Food Workers
  • Hand washing is also required after a person touches bare skin on their body. For example, if a person touches their face or hair, they must wash their hands before handling food again. 
  •  When to Wash Your Hands (PDF)
  • Employees also must wash their hands after using the restroom. Places of business need to post signs that clearly state that employees must wash their hands before starting work again.
  • Wash Your Hands!
  • A person needs to wash their hands after they touch or handle an animal, such as a seeing eye dog or other service animal. The rule also applies to animals that will be butchered or turned into a meal.
  • Healthy Pets, Healthy People
  • Hand washing is a must after a person sneezes or coughs. They must also wash up after eating or drinking, either while working or on a break. People must also wash their hands after using tobacco.
  • Benefits of Hand Washing
  • Employees need to wash their hands after handling dirty dishes, whether the dishes are from the tables or are equipment used to prepare the meals. Typically, cooks do not handle dirty dishes, but the kitchen may be understaffed on occasion.
  • Hand Washing
  • People may need to wash their hands frequently when preparing food to prevent cross-contamination. For example, if a cook is preparing raw chicken, then will cut raw vegetables, they should wash their hands between handling the chicken and vegetables.
  • Prevent Cross Contamination
  • If a person is working with raw food, then plans to work with packaged food, they need to wash their hands before handling the packaged food to prevent the spread of bacteria from the raw food to the pre-made food.
  • Hand Washing in Food Service
  • Hand washing is essential before a person puts on latex or vinyl gloves to handle food. Most likely, the person will have just been performing another activity that requires them to wash their hands anyway.
  • Properly Put on Gloves
  • Servers should wash their hands before they present food to customers.
  • Health and Hygiene Standards for Food Handlers


Hand Washing 101