Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Not Touching Food With Your Hands – Why and How To Do This?

Many people have heard you should wash your hands often to avoid getting sick. The theory is that throughout the day, you touch many things, shake people's hands, go to the bathroom etc, and by doing these things, you may pick up germs in the form of viruses and bacteria. Then if you hold or touch the food your are eating, the germs may transfer to the food and ultimately get into your system. This is why there are regulations in place for food workers not to touch ready-to-eat foods with bare hands.

My years ago, I remember getting sick often and I hated being sick. So I started to educate myself on ways to avoid getting sick such as washing your hands before you eat. I did this for a while but soon realized trying to wash your hands every time before you eat can be impractical and sometimes it is just not an option. Also it can get to a point where it becomes excessive and you start washing your hands too often to the point where it starts to take a toll the skin.

I wanted to find a solution where I did not have to worry about potentially contaminating food by touching it, but at the same time, not have to worry about washing my hands all the time. So I started to look for ways to eat food without touching it.

The first and most obvious way to do this is to use utensils such as fork, knife, and spoon. Many foods are expected to be eaten with utensils like this. If you are out at a restaurant you can almost always find something on the menu that is meant to be eaten using utensils. Even if it is something like a sandwich that is usually eaten by hand, you can still use a knife and fork if you want. People might question you about it, or you might feel like George Costanza, but sometimes it is better to have piece of mind knowing you are minimizing your chances of getting sick.

Another method to avoid touching food is to handle it by the wrapper. Many foods, especially fast food come wrapped in paper or foil. For example you can eat a hamburger or a burrito by opening it half way and holding it by the wrapper. This keeps a barrier between your hands and the food.

Another method when neither of the first two are an option is to hold food by the edge and eat around it. For example with pizza, you can hold it by the crust and just eat everything except the part that you held. This can work with things like bread rolls as well.

Of course there are many arguments to this practice of avoiding touching food. One argument is that we have an immune system that protects us from germs like this and it can even be helpful to expose yourself to more germs in order to build up resistance. It is true that our immune systems will protect us from most of these germs, but the few that are very harmful will still make you sick if they get into your system. I don't know about you, but I would rather be safe than sorry.

Another argument people may say is “Just wash your hands”. It is good advice but as mentioned above, this is not always practical or possible. Even if you try to wash your hands before you eat, for example at a restaurant, chances are you may have to touch more things such as a door handle, a menu, a hand to shake... before you even get back to your food.

Some may still say avoiding touching food is overreacting and impractical in itself. I don't necessarily disagree, but as mentioned above, I don't like getting sick so I don't mind taking extra precautions if it means less chance of potentially picking up harmful viruses or bacteria.

This issue can also pose a problem when others are preparing your food. When you make your own food, you have much control over it so you can make sure it is sanitary from start to finish. When others are making your food whether it is in restaurant or at a friends or family gathering, you don't have as much control over it so sometimes you have to take a chance and hope they are preparing the food in a sanitary manner.

Upon doing a little research on this topic, it seems president Donald Trump also avoids touching food with his hands. I didn't find a concrete reason given for his case, but I would guess it would be the same reason as discussed here. Especially for someone in his line of work where he is shaking hands with people all day, you can imagine why he would not then want to go pick up a sandwich with his hands.

Are you someone who also does not touch food with your hands or do you think trying not to touch food with your hands is crazy? If you have any feelings on the issue one way or the other, feel free to leave a comment.

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