Through a notification dated 28 March 2018, the FSSAI has advised FBOs on the fact that currency notes and coins need to be handled with care as they are a source of microbiological contamination.
It is a fact that currency notes and coins are exchanged for goods and services for all sections of the society. Yet often currency notes get contaminated with harmful microorganism as they get soiled
- because of unclean hands
- use of saliva during the counting
- storage under unhygienic conditions
Any kind of cross-contamination from currency notes is a risk to human health and could lead to food poisoning and skin, respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. Children, pregnant women, aged and immune compromised persons are the ones who are particularly vulnerable.
Most often food vendors, especially street food vendors, prepare and serve food and collect money from patrons using the same hand.
FSSAI advises and recommends that
- food handlers, food sellers and others who come in direct contact with food must avoid handling money and food simultaneously
- gloves must be worn when handling food and bare hands to be used for handling currency
- after handling money hands must be thoroughly washed before touching food and vice versa
- handling food and money must be physically separated
FSSAI has asked the Commissioners of Food Safety of all States/UTs to initiate a systematic campaign for generating awareness amongst all citizens to discourage the simultaneous handling of food and currency notes and coins.
Study on currency notes and coins contamination
Department of Microbiology, Tirunelveli Medical College, Tamil Nadu carried out an ‘Assessment of Microbial Contamination of Paper Currency Notes in Circulation.’ Their research study was carried out for a period of two months in a tertiary care hospital. They investigated 120 currency notes of all denomination from different occupation groups in Tirunelveli City. It was found that the currency notes contained 86.4 % of contamination from pathogens like Escherichia coli, Bacillus spp, Klebsiella spp, Staphylococcus aureus, Micrococci and Pseudomonas spp. They also found that Rs.100, Rs.50 notes had more contamination as compared to other denominations and Rs.5, Rs.10, Rs.20 had moderate contamination. Currency notes and coins change several hands and are exposed to several different environments. Since the study has come to the conclusion that Indian paper currency is commonly contaminated so it must be handled with care to prevent the transmission of disease.
In the light of this study, it is indeed important that food handlers practice good personal hygienic in order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. They must avoid counting money by using saliva and they must not handle food and money simultaneously so as to prevent cross-contamination.