Have Australians Changed their Hand Washing Habits in 2020?

Research results show that Australians aren't washing their hands as much as they should.
October 15, 2020

Global Handwashing Day is being celebrated today, and this year’s focus is on encouraging everyone around the world to improve their hand hygiene amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In Australia, a survey from October 2019 by the Food Safety Information Council revealed that Australians are failing when it comes to hand hygiene. So, how about this year? Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the behaviour of Australians when it comes to hand washing?

The Food Safety Information Council has released Omnipoll national research which was conducted online from August 27— 1, 2020, and surveyed 1232 people aged 18 years and over. The findings indicate that there has been no major increase in Australians washing their hands since this time last year. Some of the most significant findings include:

  • Only a 4% increase in the number of people who said they always wash their hands after going to the toilet
  • A 5% drop in the number of respondents who always wash their hands before handling food
  • 1 in 5 people couldn’t recall how often they washed their hands or used hand sanitiser
  • There was a strong correlation between people’s use of hand sanitiser and concerns about catching COVID-19
  • 80% of men versus 85% of women always wash their hands after going to the toilet
  • 53% of men versus 62% women always wash their hands before touching food

These results indicate that Global Handwashing Day continues to be needed in order to advocate for the importance of hand washing and to spread awareness.

In response to the results, the Food Safety Information Council stated:

“While the Food Safety Information Council’s major concern is to reduce the estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning each year, we recognise that good hand hygiene can also reduce your risk of COVID-19 and other viral infections. Health and handwashing go hand in hand, after all. A study by University College London recommends that people should wash their hands 6 to 10 times a day to reduce their risk of catching viral infections such as colds, influenza and COVID-19.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues on, Australians are strongly encouraged to increase their hand hygiene in order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It is also important to understand that proper hand hygiene is not something that should only be done during a pandemic. Hand washing is essential for reducing food-borne illnesses, especially within the food industry. Using the proper hand washing technique helps keep Food Handlers safe and food safe for consumption by customers.

Food Handlers must wash their hands:

  • before working with ready-to-eat food after handling raw food
  • after using the toilet
  • before starting to handle food
  • after smoking, coughing, sneezing, using a handkerchief or disposable tissue, eating or drinking
  • after touching hair, scalp
  • after handling money
  • after handling garbage or contaminated food
  • after cleaning or handling chemicals

Hand washing resources

The Australian Institute of Food Safety (AIFS) advocates for proper hygiene protocols and techniques by providing nationally recognised food safety training and helpful resources for food businesses. Check out these helpful hygiene resources for your food business: