Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Hands that Prepare our Food

How clean are they? Seriously! Have you considered how clean our helpers’ hands really are as they handle our food?

I’m not some cleanliness freak – that, I have to stress! But this question bothered me when, years ago, I observed a mother in a rural area clean up her toddler with only water after he made poo-poo. But what really sent my paranoiac tendencies soaring was seeing her wash her hand with only water. That was it? No soap or anything? Yeah! That was all!

It got me thinking of our own angels in our kitchens. It’s so easy to imagine, you know. Call of nature … quick wash … then off to the kitchen to continue slicing some green leafy vegetable that we all know should only be blanched. Now, if that won’t make your skin crawl, I don’t know what will!

What if unhygienic practices such as that one I witnessed are more common than we think? What if we have some members in our household who are as unenlightened as that woman who got me hyperventilating?

They prepare and serve our food, you know. They make sandwiches for us, lay out utensils on our tables, or bring milk or snacks to our children, even feed them or touch their faces… We take great pains at ensuring that our children, home, and food are clean, but beyond that, this matter concerning the hands that prepare our food must be given equal importance.

For the sake of food safety (and my peace of mind), I do not only instruct every new household member about thorough hand washing, but I have also provided my angels with liquid antibacterial soap in their own comfort room, with strict instructions to use it at least twice after each you-know-what. I know, it's kind of expensive. But the P150 or so per month is additional expense that I can take, if it would mean continued safety and good health for my family.

I opted for liquid antibac soap because I do not have much confidence over soap bars and their ability to kill germs. Besides, there’s this matter that really bothers me: the thought of hands fresh out of their behinds reaching for that bar of soap, rolling it around to make suds, before going back … then reaching again for that same bar to either do a second washing, or to finish off with a hand washing.

Maybe I’m obsessing too much over germs … but is it too crazy for me to believe that soaps couldn’t do much cleaning anymore if it had been held by a hand that has had prior contact with that gooey matter we refer to as poo? Whether or not toilet paper was used, wouldn’t bacteria somehow get transferred to the soap? Wouldn’t going back for that same soap for the final hand washing merely result in further transfer of the bacteria from the soap back to the hand?

Here’s the worst: have you thought of the possibility of our precious yayas also using our kids’ bath soap to clean them up with after our little ones have had their du-du? (shivers!) That’s why we’re all using liquid antibac for after-toilet cleaning-up purposes.

I hope I haven’t ruined somebody’s early Sunday coffee with this gooey topic. But I decided to share this concern because of my daughter’s bout with gastroenteritis, which I have reason to believe, may have been brought about by her exposure to a contaminant of fecal origin after swimming in water that practically had no chlorine.

My baby suffered from high-grade fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and headache. It was an ordeal that I wish, nobody, especially young children, would have to go through again.

What happens outside our homes is beyond our control. But we have a complete say over what happens inside. A little education is all that is needed.

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