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January Cartoon: How to Prevent Hair in Food While Cooking

Food safety cartoon about how to keep hair out of food

Did you know that hair is a common hazard when it comes to food safety? Customers that find hair in their food are usually disgusted, and are less likely to return to your establishment. It’s also a health code violation if hair restraints are not worn or if improper hair restraints are used.

It’s important to know about the dangers hair can present as well as the best ways to prevent it from getting into the food you prepare! Being knowledgeable about this simple topic can improve the food safety culture at your establishment.

Wearing a hair restraints may seem simple or feel like a nuisance. But taking the extra step to cover your hair will help prevent complaints and foodborne illness. It’s easier to prevent hair from getting into food than trying to repair any damage done because a hair restraint was not worn or improperly used.

Here are some answers to common questions you may have about hair coverings in your business.

Why should I wear a hair restraint?

Hair can cause physical and biological contamination

Hair can present a physical hazard, especially since it’s usually unexpected. A physical hazard is an object that can cause your customers to choke or injure themselves. Some physical hazards occur naturally, like pits in fruit or bones in chicken. But any physical hazard, whether it’s natural to the food or not, can hurt your customer. 

Hair can also be a biological hazard. It can have several types of pathogens on it, including Staphylococcus bacteria.

These bacteria can cause foodborne illness and quickly make your customers sick. Although it is normal to have these pathogens on your skin and hair, it’s important to keep them out of the food. You can prevent hair in food by wearing the right attire, like gloves and a hair restraint.

Wear the proper hair restraints when working with or around food to prevent it from getting in the food!

What kind of hair restraints are acceptable?

According to the FDA Food Code, hair restraints like hair nets, baseball caps, or hats are acceptable to wear. The main goal is to use a hair covering that will hold any dislodged hair in place so it doesn’t fall into food or onto equipment. Hair restraints also help keep you from touching your hair and contaminating your hands.

There are many types of hair nets and baseball caps that can be used. If you choose to use a disposable hair net, be sure to throw it away once you are done or if it has a hole in it.

Keeping your hair restraint in good, clean condition is important when it comes to food safety. Just like disposable gloves, disposable hair nets are meant for one use and should be discarded once you are done with it.

If you have any questions about acceptable hair restraints, check with your local health department.

Do I need to cover facial hair?

The answer is yes! Uncovered facial hair can fall into food and contaminate it. Use a beard net or other restraint to cover any facial hair, including beards, mustaches, and goatees.

Like regular hair restraints, these are meant to hold hair so it doesn’t fall into food. Check with your local health department to see if your facial hair restraints are enough.

If I’m a server, do I need to wear a hair restraint?

According to the FDA Food Code, hair restraints are not required for servers.

But that doesn’t mean that you should let your luscious locks flow while you work. If you have longer hair, you should pull it back or put it up, like in a ponytail or bun. This will help keep your hair out of the food you serve!

What should I do if my hair accidentally touches or gets into food?

Accidents happen, and if you see that your hair has touched or fallen into the food you are preparing, throw it away. Clean and sanitize your equipment and start over. Hair can carry many pathogens, plus it is small and hard to see, so it’s important to wash your hands and clean and sanitize your workspace. 

If you are a server, the same rules apply: if you notice that your hair has accidentally touched or fallen into the food you are about to serve, throw it away and request a new dish. 

You might also consider washing your hands before resuming your service. Your hands are easily susceptible to contamination and it’s important to wash your hands anytime you think they might be contaminated.

You should also take note if hair falls on or around food-contact surfaces or equipment such as cutting boards, dishes, and utensils. If you see your hair (or a co-worker’s hair) touch any surfaces like this, remove and throw away the hair, and clean and sanitize the equipment and area that the hair could have contaminated.

It may seem extreme, but because hair presents a biological hazard, it can transfer pathogens quickly to any surface it touches. 

What happens if I touch my hair while preparing food?

If you accidentally touch your hair while working, it’s important that you wash your hands and change your gloves right away! Even if you only scratched or briefly touched your hair, that could be enough to contaminate your hands. Keeping your hands clean while working around food is crucial in food safety.

Same thing with servers: if you touch or mess with your hair while serving, remember to wash your hands! You might think that you only touch the plates or utensils, but those pathogens can quickly contaminate the food you serve. Wash your hands anytime you think your hand could have become contaminated!

If you notice that your hair is falling out of the hair restraint or if you see a co-worker’s hair coming out of a hair net, make sure it gets fixed right away. 

You may have to take your hair restraint off and fix your hair before putting your hair restraint back on. If this is the case, it would be best to do that in an area where food and equipment are not present. Doing this will help keep hair from accidentally getting in or on food! 

Once you are finished fixing your hair restraint, remember to wash your hands before resuming food preparation or service.

Following these guidelines about hair restraints can help keep you and your customers safe from physical and biological hazards.

Remember to wear proper hair restraints like a hair net, baseball cap, or visor when working around food. Always cover facial hair, too! If you accidentally touch your hair or face while working, wash your hands and change your gloves! Keeping your hands and gloves clean will help prevent pathogens from contaminating the food you prepare and serve.

If you are a server, pull your hair back to help keep it from getting into the food you serve! Be on the lookout for any stray hairs you may notice, and take proper actions if they have contaminated any food or food-contact surface.

Interested in learning more about food safety? Visit www.StateFoodSafety.com to read about more food safety tips, gain access to free printable posters, and more!

— Janilyn Hutchings

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