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Scottish agency stresses handwashing value after survey results

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A survey in Scotland has revealed less than a third of people always use soap or hand wash and water when they are at home.

Around one fifth of respondents also said they spend less time than the recommended 20 seconds washing their hands.

The findings prompted Food Standards Scotland (FSS) to highlight the importance of thorough handwashing to prevent food poisoning.

Getting the message across
The handwashing tracker, conducted by Ipsos MORI, took place between July 10 and 14, and is the first of a quarterly survey. Almost 500 adults aged 16 to 75 years old took part.

Half of those surveyed sometimes use sanitizing wipes or gel to wash their hands while at home.

Two thirds said they always washed hands before cooking a meal or preparing food but less than half said they did it before eating or after contact with animals including pets.

Jane Horne, head of food protection science and surveillance, said washing hands thoroughly at home is an essential step for good food hygiene.

“To avoid cross contamination around your kitchen and reduce the risk of food poisoning to you and your family, you need to always wash your hands thoroughly before preparing and eating food – and in particular after touching raw foods, especially meat, and before handling ready-to-eat foods,” she said.

Important to reduce spread of infections
Between 10 and 20 percent of respondents always wash hands, or use hand sanitizing wipes or gels, before having a picnic outside the home, eating at a restaurant or consuming takeaway food.

A low percentage reported handwashing facilities are always not available or not usable in takeaways, cafes and restaurants, public toilets, pubs or clubs and sports and music events.

Results also showed that 85 percent always wash hands after going to the toilet and 41 percent do this after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing into their hands.

Gregor Smith, interim chief medical officer, said good hand hygiene is the single most important thing you can do to help reduce the spread of infections.

“Washing your hands properly with soap and warm water for 20 seconds can help protect you, your family and those around you. Whether you’re at home or out and about, you should make regular and thorough handwashing, or the use of hand sanitizer if warm water and soap isn’t available, part of your daily routine.”

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