What is it about?

Foodborne disease is an important public health issue in Malaysia. Consumption of food contaminated with pathogens or bacterial toxins is harmful to human health. Poor personal hygiene and regular hand contact with raw food, feces, nose, skin, or genital region all result in hands being heavily contaminated with enteric pathogens. Unhygienic food handling practices is the main factor contributing to food- borne diseases, with the majority denoted as food poisoning cases (i.e. cholera, typhoid/paratyphoid fevers, viral hepatitis A, food poisoning, and dysentery). Numerous local surveys of ready-to-eat food have linked hygiene practices to the transmission of harmful foodborne pathogens from hands to food. In Malaysia, migrant workers constitute a large proportion of workers employed in the foodservice industry, which recorded an increase from 6.6% in 2000 to 11.9% in 2013, hence the rationale to why migrant food handlers were selected as primary subjects for this study.

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Why is it important?

This study highlights high prevalence of APC (n = 381, 99.5%) followed by S. aureus (n = 243,63.4%) and total coliform/ E.coli (n = 80, 20.8%) on the hands of migrant food handlers of food establishments in 3 major cities in Peninsular Malaysia. In addition, the counts of APC and S. aureus exceeded the standard acceptable levels, indicating poor personal hygiene and fecal contamination by food handlers and, therefore, increased risk of exposure to contaminated food by the consumers. Bacterial hand counts were associated with the subjects’ country of origin and working responsibilities. Our findings indicate high probability of transmission of pathogenic bacteria from the food handlers’ hands to customers during meal preparation and serving. This calls for improvements in personal hygiene and sanitation standards by the relevant health authorities among migrant food handlers.


We hope that health authorities can help improve the cleanliness of food establishments through better enforcement by regular microbiological checks on all food handlers and assessment of the sanitary facilities during their routine inspections.

Dr Pei Yee Woh
Chinese University of Hong Kong

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Microorganisms as an Indicator of Hygiene Status Among Migrant Food Handlers in Peninsular Malaysia, Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health, October 2017, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/1010539517735856.
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