Handling of food and money must be physically separated

Dr KK Aggarwal

Padma Shri Awardee

Vide a notification File No. 1/Stds/SP(L&C/A)/Advisories/FSSAI dated March 28, 2018, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has cautioned that “cross contamination from currency is a risk to human health leading to a wide variety of diseases including food poisoning, skin, respiratory and intestinal infections”.

Currency notes and coins become contaminated with harmful microorganisms when they are handled with unclean and soiled hands, use of saliva during counting of notes and/or stored under unhygienic conditions.

The notification further recommends that food handlers, food sellers and others should avoid handling currency and food simultaneously. Also,

  • Gloves must be worn when handling food
  • Bare hands to be used for handling currency
  • Hands must be thoroughly washed after handling money and before touching food and vice versa
  • Handling of food and money must be physically separated

Several studies have shown notes and coins as potential source of infection. Banknotes recovered from hospitals may be highly contaminated by Staphylococcus aureus, while, Salmonella, Escherichia coli and S. aureus are commonly isolated from banknotes from food outlets.Influenza virus, Norovirus, Rhinovirus, hepatitis A virus, and Rotavirus can be transmitted through hand contact (Future Microbiol. 2014;9(2):249-61). Moreover, they may also harbor antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA and cause them to spread further.

Antibiotic resistance is escalating and making it difficult to treat infections. It prolongs hospitalization, increases cost of treatment and mortality. Antibiotic resistance can affect individuals of any age, even children.

With no new antibiotics on the horizon, the situation may revert to a ‘pre-antibiotic era’ as the WHO has also warned, unless steps are taken urgently to curb this public health danger. UK public health experts are investigating a man infected with a multidrug-resistant form of gonorrhea that is believed to be the first case to display high-level resistance to the recommended first-line treatments and to most other commonly used antibiotics.

Hand hygiene is the simplest and also the most economical way to prevent transmission of harmful microorganisms and control spread of infection. The catch phrase is “before and after”, which means, one should wash hands before and after eating food, before and after touching any infected material, before and after seeing a patient or before and after normal evacuation of stool in the morning.

Just as the currency exchanges hands, so does the disease …This reiterates the need for hand washing before and after handling currency.

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