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What jewelry can food handlers wear while working?

Despite the title, this article isn’t about how to wow employers at a first interview or what to wear on the red carpet. It’s about your dress policy when your job involves handling food.

No jewellery, except for plain wedding bands

Food Handlers JewelryIf you turn up to work dripping in gold like darts player Bobby George or  Mister T you’ll politely be asked to remove your bracelets, rings, earrings, gold chains, brooches and necklaces before being allowed into the food processing area. Similarly if you’re wearing real or fake jewels or any visible body piercing jewellery you won’t be allowed into the area either. This is because jewellery, no matter how sentimental it might be, or how good you feel wearing it, presents a physical hazard.

You’d hate to lose a family heirloom into some product; and the consumer certainly won’t want to eat an earring or bite into a brooch. Also, no matter how often you wash your hands, bacteria can still become lodged in the nooks and crannies of ring and bracelet settings, watch straps etc. The only jewellery permitted in most food processing plants is a plain wedding band.

Body piercings – if you can see them, please remove thempiercing

Body piercings have become more popular over recent years as a statement of individualism, but the same rule applies. Whether you’re wearing earrings, nose rings, lip rings, eyebrow rings, or studs or bars through your cheeks or chin, there is still the potential for them to become detached from your face and make their way into product. Individual companies will have their own policies about tongue piercings, but as a rule, if a piercing is visible, it has the potential to contaminate food, so must be removed before starting work.

Emergency bracelets/necklaces

Identification necklaces or bracelets notifying a medical condition (such as epilepsy) and emergency contact details are a special case. Whilst they are classed as jewellery, they are also essential, so often the policy is that they should be covered. Another way around this is for the worker to wear a special patch on their uniform.

False nails and nail polish

NFalse nailsails can harbour all manner of bacteria which is why if you’re working with food, they should be kept short and neat. Short nails are easier to clean and less likely to snag/tear gloves. Nail polish should not be worn as it can chip off and fall into food.

The fashion for false nails, gel nails or nail gems (and false eyelashes) is also something which should be kept for outside the work area. There were newspaper reports last year of a young woman biting into a pre-packed sandwich and finding a dirty false nail. Needless to say this was extremely off-putting, but bacteria from the nail could have contaminated the sandwich contents. It’s also the type of scenario where the consumer could easily have choked…

Beards and other facial fashions

Perhaps it was the introduction of the Movember initiative, which encouraged men to grow moustaches to raise awareness of men’s health issues, but there seem to be an awful lot more men with facial hair these days. Beards in particular can capture crumbs or shed the odd hair, so it’s important that they are covered by beard snoods when in a food processing environment.Beard

Hair, hairpieces etc.

Nobody wants to find hair in their food, so it should go without saying that hair should be kept clean and covered – and that includes any hairpieces or hair extensions. Long hair should be tied back and all hair should be completely tucked into a hairnet and/or supplied headwear, such as hats or caps.

If you are wearing turbans or headscarves for religious reasons, they should be freshly laundered and should not feature any decoration that could potentially fall into food i.e. sequins, beads etc.

Mobile phones

Believe it or not, it’s not necessary to have your mobile phone to hand every second of every day.  Studies have shown that cell phones have 18 times more bacteria on them than the average toilet seat, so obviously that’s a very good reason why they should be left in your locker whilst you’re in the processing area. You can check them at break times, but please be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before resuming work.

BRC Audits

Be aware that BRC auditors not only look at processes and hygienic plant and equipment – they will also pick up on appropriate clothing and personal hygiene. As well as the points listed above, workers need to ensure that they wash their hands correctly before handling food and after sneezing, coughing or using the toilet. No outdoor clothing should be worn within the processing area and clean PPE and footwear should always be worn.

You can learn more about personal hygiene on our Food Safety courses, which run throughout the year, both off and online.