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Outbreaks Where Food Workers Have Been Implicated in the Spread of Foodborne Disease. Part 10. Alcohol-Based Antiseptics for Hand Disinfection and a Comparison of Their Effectiveness with Soaps

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Abstract:

Alcohol compounds are increasingly used as a substitute for hand washing in health care environments and some public places because these compounds are easy to use and do not require water or hand drying materials. However, the effectiveness of these compounds depends on how much soil (bioburden) is present on the hands. Workers in health care environments and other public places must wash their hands before using antiseptics and/or wearing gloves. However, alcohol-based antiseptics, also called rubs and sanitizers, can be very effective for rapidly destroying some pathogens by the action of the aqueous alcohol solution without the need for water or drying with towels. Alcohol-based compounds seem to be the most effective treatment against gram-negative bacteria on lightly soiled hands, but antimicrobial soaps are as good or better when hands are more heavily contaminated. Instant sanitizers have no residual effect, unlike some antimicrobial soaps that retain antimicrobial activity after the hygienic action has been completed, e.g., after hand washing. Many alcohol-based hand rubs have antimicrobial agents added to them, but each formulation must be evaluated against the target pathogens in the environment of concern before being considered for use. Wipes also are widely used for quick cleanups of hands, other body parts, and surfaces. These wipes often contain alcohol and/or antimicrobial compounds and are used for personal hygiene where water is limited. However, antiseptics and wipes are not panaceas for every situation and are less effective in the presence of more than a light soil load and against most enteric viruses.

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA 2: The B. Michaels Group Inc., 487 West River Road, Palatka, Florida 32177, USA 3: Campden BRI, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire GL55 6LD, UK 4: Public Health Agency of Canada, Laboratory for Foodborne Zoonoses, 160 Research Lane, Unit 206, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 5B2 5: 6100 Troon Lane S.E., Olympia, Washington 98501, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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    First published in 1937, the Journal of Food Protection®, is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection® is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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