Hand hygiene interventions are critical for reducing farmworker hand contamination and preventing the spread of produce-associated illness. Hand hygiene effectiveness may be produce-commodity specific, which could influence implementation strategies. This study’s goal was to determine if produce commodity influences the ability of handwashing with soap and water or two-step alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS) interventions to reduce soil and bacteria on farmworker hands. Farmworkers (n = 326) harvested produce (cantaloupe, jalapeño, and tomato) for 30 to 90 minutes before engaging in handwashing, two-step ABHS (jalapeño and cantaloupe), or no hand hygiene. Hands were rinsed to measure amounts of soil (absorbance at 600 nm) and indicator bacteria (coliforms, Enterococcus sp., generic Escherichia coli, and Bacteroidales universal [AllBac] and human-specific [BFD] 16S rRNA gene markers). Without hand hygiene, bacterial concentrations (0.88 to 5.1 log10 CFU/hand) on hands significantly differed by the produce commodity harvested. Moderate significant correlations (ρ = −0.41 to 0.56) between soil load and bacterial concentrations were observed. There were significant produce-commodity-specific differences in the ability of handwashing and two-step ABHS interventions to reduce soil (P < 0.0001), coliforms (P = 0.002), and Enterococcus sp. (P = 0.003), but not the Bacteroidales markers AllBac (P = 0.4) or BFD (P = 0.3). Contamination on hands of farmworkers who harvested cantaloupe was more difficult to remove. Overall, we found that a two-step ABHS intervention was similar to handwashing with soap and water at reducing bacteria on farmworker hands. In summary, produce commodity type should be considered when developing hand hygiene interventions on farms.
Both handwashing and alcohol-based hand sanitizer reduce soil and microbial contamination on farmworker hands during harvest
But Produce Type Matters
Prince-Guerra, J., Nace, M., Lyles, R. H., Fabiszewski de Aceituno, A., Bartz, F., Arbogast, J., Gentry-Shields, J., Jaykus, L-A., Heredia, N., & Garcia, S. (2020). Both handwashing and alcohol-based hand sanitizer reduce soil and microbial contamination on farmworker hands during harvest: But Produce Type Matters. Food Microbiology, 86(18), e00780-20. [10.1128/AEM.00780-20].