Effect of hand wash agents on controlling the transmission of pathogenic bacteria from hands to food

J Food Prot. 2007 Dec;70(12):2873-7. doi: 10.4315/0362-028x-70.12.2873.


The goals of this study were to evaluate the effectiveness of two hand wash regimens in reducing transient bacteria on the skin following a single hand wash and the subsequent transfer of the bacteria to a ready-to-eat food item, freshly cut cantaloupe melon. The number of bacteria recovered from hands and the quantity transferred to the melon were significantly less following the use of an antibacterial soap compared with plain soap. The antimicrobial soap achieved > 3-log reductions versus Escherichia coli and 3.31- and 2.83-log reductions versus Shigella flexneri. The plain soap failed to achieve a 2-log reduction against either organism. The bacteria recovered from the melon handled by hands treated with antimicrobial hand soap averaged 2 log. Melon handled following hand washing with plain soap had > 3 log bacteria in the experiments. Based on previously published feeding studies, an infection rate in the range of approximately 15 to 25% would be expected after ingesting melon containing 2 log CFU compared with ingesting greater than the 3 log transferred from hands washed with plain soap, which would result in a higher infection attack rate of 50 to 80%. The data thus demonstrate there is a greater potential to reduce the transmission and acquisition of disease through the use of an antimicrobial hand wash than through the use of plain soap.

MeSH terms

  • Colony Count, Microbial / methods
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Cucumis melo / microbiology*
  • Disinfectants / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Escherichia coli / isolation & purification
  • Food Contamination / prevention & control*
  • Food Handling / methods*
  • Hand / microbiology*
  • Hand Disinfection*
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment
  • Shigella flexneri / isolation & purification
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Disinfectants