FDA 2022 Food Code lowers hand washing water temperature
July 12
Did you know that comfortable water temperature plays a critical role in this public health step?

In the National Restaurant Association’s 2022 Food Code webinar, Dr. Ben Chapman, Agricultural and Human Sciences Department head at North Carolina State University, co-hosting with Patrick Guzzle,VP of Food Science and Industry for the National Restaurant Association, explains that comfort is critical in hand washing because it increases the likelihood, frequency, and the amount of time employees will take to wash their hands.

The 2022 Food Code lowers the minimum requirement for hand washing water temperature from at least 100°F to at least 85°F. This new minimum temperature aligns with the Uniform Plumbing Code and seems to be a comfortable temperature because it’s close to the same temperature as the surface of people’s skin.

“If water is too hot or too cold, i.e., not comfortable, the less likely employees will wash as often, thoroughly or for as long as an effective hand washing requires, which in turn limits hand washing’s effectiveness,” says Guzzle.

While the 2022 Food Code was amended to revise the water temperature for hand sinks to at least 85°F, water temperature is not the most important step to hand washing because hot water is not killing bacteria on your hands.

Water at a temperature that would qualify as a kill step would actually cause burns.

According to Guzzle, “the most important factor to proper hand washing is the time the soap is being vigorously lathered on your hands and up your wrists.” Employees should lather for at least 20 seconds to remove debris and particles.

Here’s the drill:
  1. Wet your hands, up wrists to lower arms with running warm water
  2. Apply enough soap to build up a good lather
  3. Vigorously scrub hands, nails, and up the wrists
  4. Rinse thoroughly under warm running water
  5. Dry with single-use paper towels or hand dryer
Guzzle advises that “restaurant operators review the water temperature changes with the restaurant staff and stress the importance of hand washing frequency and duration.”

All restaurant employees should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds after:
  • Handling raw meat poultry, and seafood
  • Using the restroom
  • Touching their hair, face, body, clothes, or apron
  • Sneezing, coughing, or using a tissue
  • Smoking, eating, drinking, or chewing gum
  • Using chemicals that might affect the safety of food
  • Emptying or taking out the garbage
  • Cleaning tables or washing dirty dishes
  • Handling money and making change
For more information, the National Restaurant Association offers 2022 Food Code and bi-lingual hand washing resources such as posters and other tools on its ServeSafe Food Safety Focus webpage.