1 in 5 Australians don’t always wash their hands after going to the toilet (23 October 2019)


The Food Safety Information Council today released research that shows more than 20% of Australians admit that they don’t always wash their hand after going to the toilet.

Presenting the findings at the Accord Cleaning & Hygiene Conference in Sydney Lydia Buchtmann, the Council’s Communication Director, said the research indicated that public health risk could be even greater as nearly 40% of respondents also admitted that they didn’t always wash their hands before touching food.

‘Good handwashing, using running water, soap and drying hands thoroughly is a basic public health message that people seem to be forgetting. A fifth of Australians say they don’t always wash their hands after going to the toilet and more than a third admit they don’t always wash before touching food. This behaviour could be contributing to the estimated 4.1million cases of food poisoning each year not to mention spreading viral infections such as cold, influenza and norovirus,’ Ms Buchtmann said.

‘The research shows gender differences as men were less likely than women to always wash hands after going to the toilet (76% of men versus 82% of women) and before touching food (59% men versus 66% women). Young people were less likely than older age groups to always wash their hands after going to the toilet (69% under 34 years versus 86% over 50 years) and before touching food (59% under 34 versus 63% over 50). Poor handwashing knowledge among young people is also a concern as they often become professional food handlers.

‘The Food Safety Information Council’s advice is to always wash and dry your hands:
• before handling, preparing and eating food
• after touching raw meat, fish, shell eggs or poultry
• after using the toilet, attending to children’s (or others) toiletting and changing nappies
• after blowing your nose
• after touching a pet
• after gardening

‘We have launched an education package today including a video and posters for adults and children that give these 4 simple tips for hand washing correctly:
1. Wet your hands and rub together well to build up a good lather with soap for at least 20 seconds and don’t forget to wash between your fingers and under your nails. You might have to use a nail brush
2. Rinse well under running water to remove the bugs from your hands
3. Dry your hands thoroughly on a clean towel for at least 20 seconds. Touching surfaces with moist hands encourages bugs to spread from the surface to your hands
4. If no running water is available use alcohol gel.

‘This package including the video can be downloaded from our website here and we encourage people to watch the video and to put up the posters at home, in their workplace, or at school. We are also seeking sponsorship to fund handwashing campaigns in indigenous communities and specifically for younger Australians, ’ Ms Buchtmann concluded.

The Food Safety Information Council would like to thank their members Symbio Australia who made this research possible through a charitable donation and Accord Australasia for their in kind support.

Media contact:
Lydia Buchtmann, Food Safety Information Council, 0407 626 688 or info@foodsafety.asn.au