People are not taking serious the number of illnesses they can catch after eating contaminated food.

A new study published Thursday found that the majority of citizens in the US don’t clean their hands as they should before eating or cooking. According to the US Department of Agriculture, consumers are failing to properly present the due hygiene 97 percent of the time. This can lead to contamination of food or other surfaces, and then to foodborne illnesses – like salmonella, norovirus and E. coli.

The right amount of time not to fail at washing hands are 20 seconds or more. However, after the experts gathered the 383 participants, the results showed that barely 3 percent of them succeeded when doing it. The rest of them didn’t last the proper time, or dried their hands with towels that were not clean.

All of those participants worked in six different kitchen facilities in the metro Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina and in rural Smithfield, also in North Carolina. The study was performed by the FSIS, in partnership with experts from RTI International and North Carolina State University.

Washing hands, USDA
Researchers found that barely 3 percent of people know how to properly wash their hands. Image credit: Getty

According to the USDA, the 383 individuals were divided into two groups. The first one was shown with a three-minute video of how to safely prepare food and to use food thermometers. However, the second one did not have any guidance. All of them were recorded while preparing turkey burgers and salads.

After the researchers reviewed the tapes, they realized that those who watched the video could manage better the meat thermometer when making the turkey burgers, than the others who didn’t watch it. Unfortunately, they also saw that almost nobody washed their hands in a proper way.

Almost a 100 percent

Just 2 percent of the participants among the first group washed their hands following the instructions showed on the video. Only 1 percent of the other group, those who had no instructions at all, did the same. It is important to tell that the video, indeed, did not specifically showed good hand-washing techniques.

What they all failed at most was in rubbing their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, followed by not wetting hands with water. The experts also realized that the participants only considered washing their hands after touching something that was contaminated – such as raw meat – three times of the instances.

Washing hands, USDA
Follow the CDC’s instructions to wash your hands correctly. Image credit: Getty

“You can’t see, smell or feel bacteria,” said the acting deputy undersecretary for food safety at the USDA, Carmen Rottenberg. “By simply washing your hands properly, you can protect your family and prevent that bacteria from contaminating your food and key areas in your kitchen.”

The CDC has some instruction on how to properly wash hands that you can use before and after eating. They highlighted to only use clean, running water.

After wetting the hands, close the water and softly apply soap to them. Then, rub both hands with the soap. Be sure that the product reaches not only the front part of your hands, but also the back of them, between finger, and under the fingernails.

Continue with this process for at least 20 seconds. You can either sing the alphabet once, or the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Then, put your hands under the clean water to remove the soap. And finally, dry your hands with a clean towel or air dry them.

Source: USDA