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  • Some Aussies admit still not handwashing

    Author: AAP

Despite all the lessons of a global pandemic, almost one in five Australians admit they don't always wash their hands after visiting the toilet.

Almost half concede that they sometimes also forget to lather up before handling food.

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The result of a national online survey by the Food Safety Information Council, the findings underscore associated research revealing more than 4.6 million annual cases of food poisoning Australia-wide.

"Good handwashing, using running water, soap and drying hands thoroughly is a basic public health message that people seem to be forgetting," according to council spokeswoman Lydia Buchtmann.

Of the more than 1250 adults it polled, 18 per cent confessed to not always washing up after going to the bathroom and 47 per cent that they don't do so before eating or preparing food.


Gender was a point of difference, with 84 per cent of women respondents saying they made sure to always practice hand hygiene as part of a trip to the toilet but only 80 per cent of men offering the same assurance.

While 62 per cent of women reported washing prior to touching food, only 52 per cent of men could say the same.

Young people were less likely to have clean hands on exiting the bathroom (74 per cent for those under 34 versus 86 per cent for those over 50) or before a snack or a meal (51 per cent to 58 per cent).

Meanwhile, an Australian National University report on the cost of foodborne disease in Australia estimates there are 4.67 million cases of food poisoning every year resulting in some 48,000 hospitalisations, 38 deaths and $2.1 billion in economic loss.

"Poor handwashing could be a major contribution to these figures," Ms Buchtmann warned.

She urged everyone to download the council's education package and put up its posters at home, in their workplace or at school.

The Food Safety Information Council recommends washing and drying hands before handling, preparing and eating food; after touching raw meat, fish, eggs or poultry; after using the toilet or attending to children's toileting or changing nappies; and after sneezing, coughing, touching pets or gardening.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says focusing on handwashing education can reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhoea by up to 40 per cent.

Absenteeism among school children due to gastro illness could be lessened by as much as 57 per cent, and respiratory illnesses, like colds, among the general population more than 20 per cent.

A survey by international washroom manufacturer the Bradley Corporation found Americans washed their hands 10.5 times a day during the early stages of the COVID pandemic but that the number has since dropped by a quarter.


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