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Proper personal hygiene in the kitchen is important to help prevent the spread of germs. People who are cooking should wash their hands frequently, for instance, and they can also wear gloves for added protection. Any open wounds should be covered as well, and sick people should not cook, since they can pass their illnesses to others. Hair should be tied back, and tasting should only be done with a clean utensil.
Hand washing is a very important part of good personal hygiene in the kitchen. Germs, which can cause illness, are often lurking on the hands. If these germs come in contact with the food, they can make someone sick. It is also important to wash the hands to avoid spreading any of the bacteria that can cause foodborne illness from one type of food to another. For example, if a person touches raw chicken while cooking, then touches lettuce, the bacteria from the chicken could contaminate the salad.
To wash the hands properly, soap and hot water are required. The soap should be rubbed vigorously on all parts of the hands. They should then be dried on a disposable towel. The hands should be washed any time that they may have been contaminated, including after leaving and returning to the food prep area, touching the face or hair, or touching raw meat or poultry.
Wearing plastic or rubber gloves is another way to ensure good personal hygiene in the kitchen. In fact, many restaurants even require that employees wear gloves when preparing food. New gloves should be worn each time the hands could have possibly become contaminated, and the hands should be washed each time a new pair of gloves is to be put on.
At home, some cooks may wear gloves only when they have an open wound. With or without gloves, cooks should cover any open wound with a waterproof bandage. This will not only help prevent microorganisms from entering the food, but it will also help prevent them from entering the wound. Cuts, abrasions, and even hang nails can all be considered open wounds.
Anyone who is sick should also try to avoid preparing food whenever possible. Simply breathing on food can sometimes be enough to contaminate it with infectious microorganisms. Also, cooks who need to sneeze or cough should do so away from the food prep area.
Finding hair in one's food can often ruin an otherwise excellent meal. Cooks with long hair should keep personal hygiene in the kitchen in mind and tie their hair back. Short-haired individuals can also lose hair while they are preparing food. Hair nets, like gloves, are often required in many restaurants.
Tasting food as it is being prepared is often necessary to get dishes just right. This practice can also cause bacteria to enter the food. To prevent this, only clean utensils should be used to taste food.
@Phaedrus, I'd say one of the most important personal hygiene issues is bathroom-related. If a home cook needs to use the bathroom while preparing food, he or she needs to be even more diligent about hand sanitation. It doesn't take much "material" to contaminate food, and it can be trapped under fingernails.
I would say a home cook could get away with not using gloves as long as the food will eventually be heated. Regular handwashing with a strong soap and thorough rinsing should be sufficient. Handling a lot of raw fruits and vegetables or preparing cold salads, however, might call for the use of plastic or latex gloves. Those food items will not be heated to the point where germs will not survive.
I'd also suggest keeping disposable utensils around for taste testing, rather than using the same spoon for tasting and stirring. Again, the heat of a cooked sauce will probably kill off any germs from the taster's mouth, but colder food items such as frostings or icings can become contaminated.
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