Did your chef wash their hands? Handwashing ‘lie detectors’ could find out

Did your chef wash their hands? Handwashing ‘lie detectors’ could find out - Business - News

The Importance of Hand Hygiene in the Food Services Industry

Americans enjoy dining out at restaurants and quick service establishments. However, each time they do so, they place their health in the hands of food service workers. Regrettably, poor personal hygiene practices, particularly inadequate handwashing, are prevalent in this industry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food workers only wash their hands correctly one in three times. Consequently, germs transferred from the hands of these employees to food can result in dangerous outbreaks of foodborne illnesses in restaurants.

Preventing Foodborne Illnesses: The Role of Handwashing

Improving handwashing practices among food workers is crucial to preventing the spread of diseases like norovirus, Salmonella, and E. coli. The CDC reports that these illnesses can be transmitted through contaminated food due to improper handwashing.

Christine Schindler’s Mission: Enhancing Hand Hygiene in Food Services

Christine Schindler, a biomedical engineer and inventor, has taken up this cause over the past seven years. She is the co-founder and CEO of PathSpot, a New York tech startup that develops a hand hygiene device to protect the employees and customers of food-based businesses from the threat of foodborne illnesses and outbreaks.

PathSpot’s Handscanner: A Game Changer in Food Safety

The device, called the Handscanner, is described as a handwashing lie detector. It weighs less than five pounds and is about half the size of a mounted hand dryer. The Handscanner is placed next to an employee handwashing station where food is prepared.

After washing their hands for 20 seconds with soap and drying them with a paper towel, workers place their hands under the scanner for a scan. Within two seconds, the device can identify any residual contaminant on the hands and wrist using light fluorescence spectroscopy.

Detecting Contaminants to Ensure Food Safety

The device’s hospital-grade technology can instantly detect contaminants, particularly in hard-to-clean areas such as beneath fingernails and around jewelry and knuckles. It can identify gut biome molecules that transmit norovirus, E. coli, salmonella, Hepatitis A, Listeria, and other common illnesses.

A Call for Accountability in Handwashing Practices

If the Handscanner detects contamination, the employee is prompted to rewash their hands for the recommended 20 seconds and rescan them. The system ensures accountability by tracking employee handwashing using unique ID codes, RFID badges, or even fingerprint or face identification.

Raising the Bar for Food Safety in Restaurants

The PathSpot system, which costs restaurant operators $50 a month, generates valuable real-time employee data. This information can help businesses identify gaps in hygiene protocols and address them promptly.

According to Schindler, the system has been effective in increasing handwashing frequency among employees and ensuring a safer dining experience for customers.

The Origin Story of PathSpot: Solving a Global Problem

Schindler’s interest in hand hygiene and technology began while working on low-cost medical grade tools in the developing world. She was particularly intrigued by the issue of foodborne illness, which led to numerous hospitalizations and fatalities.

After learning that close to 90% of contaminants in foodborne illness outbreaks could be traced back to poor handwashing, Schindler became determined to find a solution.

Investing in the Future of Food Safety

PathSpot has raised over $20 million in funding from investors such as the founders of Chopt Creative Salad Co. and Valor Siren Ventures, Starbucks’ venture capital arm.

Though adoption has been slow in the industry known for being resistant to innovation, Schindler is optimistic about the future of food safety.

Empowering the Food Industry with Technology

By using technology like PathSpot’s Handscanner, the food industry can take a more proactive approach to hand hygiene and food safety. The potential benefits are significant: reducing the number of foodborne illness outbreaks, ensuring employee accountability, and maintaining a cleaner, safer dining experience for customers.


The food services industry plays a vital role in our daily lives. Yet, the health risks associated with poor hand hygiene practices are often overlooked. With innovative solutions like PathSpot’s Handscanner, we can empower food service workers and businesses to prioritize hand hygiene and create a safer dining experience for all.

By investing in technology that enhances accountability, we can shift the focus from reacting to foodborne illness outbreaks to preventing them altogether. This not only benefits customers but also protects the reputation and bottom line of restaurants and food manufacturers.