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Not all Australians are washing their hands as often as they should

Karen Collier, October 23, 2019 7:00PM Herald Sun

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Always wash your hands before eating. Picture: iStock/Getty Images media_cameraAlways wash your hands before eating. Picture: iStock/Getty Images


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New research has exposed the “gross” hygiene* habits of some Australians.

One in five have admitted they don’t always wash their hands after going to the toilet.

And almost two in five don’t always wash their hands before touching food.

Food Safety Information Council spokeswoman Lydia Buchtmann described the findings as “gross”.

Ms Buchtmann warned bad handwashing habits increased the risk of food poisoning and spreading viruses*.

Keep clean and safe from germs media_cameraNot everyone surveyed washes up after going to the toilet or before eating, which increases the risk of food poisoning and illness.

Young people and men were the worst offenders, she said.

“Hand washing is an essential public health message to reduce food poisoning from bacteria like E.coli and Salmonella, and also viral* infections like Norovirus which causes vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as colds and flu,” Ms Buchtmann said.

The poll also revealed one in four Aussies did not always wash their hands after handling raw meat or poultry.

Fresh vegetables media_cameraIt’s important to have clean hands when you’re preparing food, especially if handling raw meat and poultry.

The results will be presented at a cleaning and hygiene conference in Sydney this week.

“We were surprised how high the lack of hand hygiene was given people were self reporting,” Ms Buchtmann said.

“Older people were the most likely to always wash their hands. People tend to have better food safety awareness once they are in their 30s and 40s and become more responsible with parenthood.”

Ms Buchtmann said women had greater knowledge about the importance of hand washing as they were still more likely to be responsible for cooking, child care and grocery shopping.

An estimated 4.1 million food poisoning cases occur in Australia each year. Poor hand washing habits contribute to the toll*.

The recent national survey, commissioned by the council, quizzed 1229 adults.

Surgeons washing hands media_cameraHand washing is an important step in preventing illness, whether we’re doctors scrubbing up for surgery or just getting ready to cook or eat.


  • ALWAYS wash and dry hands before handling, preparing and eating food, and after touching raw meat, fish, eggs or chicken
  • ALWAYS wash and dry hands after using the toilet, changing nappies, blowing your nose, touching a pet or working in the garden
  • WASH hands with soap for at least 20 seconds.All soapsare equally effective at removing germs. Antibacterial soaps are not necessary
  • DON’T FORGET the backs of your hands, between your fingers, your wrists and fingernails
  • RINSE well under running water
  • DRY thoroughly with a clean towel for at least 20 seconds


VIDEO: The World Health Organisation advises that its six-step method is even more effective than simply washing, rinsing and drying

Washing Your Hands: Not as Easy as Soap, Rub, Dry


  • hygiene: things we do to stay healthy and prevent disease
  • viruses: microscopic infections that can get into living things, multiply and cause illness. Colds are viruses
  • viral: describing something caused by a virus
  • toll: the number of cases of illness or injury caused by one thing


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  1. What proportion of people surveyed admit they don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet?
  2. Who are the worst at washing their hands, according to the survey?
  3. How many cases of food poisoning occur in Australia each year?
  4. Name at least four activities after which you should wash your hands.
  5. What are the three main steps to take for clean hands?


1. Making things better
What would you change or put into your school toilets to make it easier for all kids to wash and dry their hands properly?

Write a list. Next to each item on your list, write sentences explaining why this is important or a good idea to help everyone wash and dry their hands properly. Then, create a design or drawing that shows what your ideas would look like, or how they would work.

Time: allow 45 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical Education

2. Extension
A jingle is a short song that is used in TV, online and radio advertisements. A good jingle gets the message across in a way that people remember their message.

Write the words of a jingle. The purpose of your jingle is to help kids and adults to remember to wash their hands.

Come up with a catchy tune or music, too.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Health and Physical Education

Use your VCOP skills to highlight all the sentence openers in this article.

Once you have your list, work with a partner to make them into flash cards.

Place the flash cards face up between the two of you and create a new story using a fact or topic idea from the article.

See if you can get through all your flash cards.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you wash your hands well enough and often enough? How could you improve?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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