Published on 10/27/16

Wash hands well when visiting fairs, petting zoos and festivals

By Judy A. Harrison

It is the time of year for visiting pumpkin patches, fall festivals and Christmas tree farms. Many of these venues have petting zoos and sell food products – a combination that is a potential health risk if proper hand washing isn’t included.

Visiting a petting zoo can be a memorable family outing, but the facts are that petting zoos and farms can be a source of E. coli transmission. The CDC warns that “when people forget to wash their hands after petting an animal, or bring food or drinks into an area where animals are exhibited, they are at risk for becoming ill.”

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension advises parents and teachers to help keep children safe by following these recommendations from the CDC:

  • Visit hand washing stations at petting zoos, festival locations and farms.
  • Always make sure that children wash their hands right after petting animals or touching pens, cages, etc., where animals are housed.
  • Even if children do not touch the animals, they should wash their hands after exiting the animal holding areas.
  • Always wash hands before touching food or drinking, before preparing food or drinks, and after removing soiled clothing or shoes after visiting farms or petting zoos.
  • Keep food and drinks out of areas where animals are held.
  • Prepare, serve and eat food only in areas where animals are not permitted.
  • Do not eat or drink raw, unpasteurized juices, cider, milk or cheeses.
  • Constantly supervise children less than 5 years of age while in animal holding areas.
  • Do not allow children to put thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects in their mouths while in the animal areas.
  • Do not take strollers, bottles, pacifiers, cups or toys into animal areas.
  • Supervise children’s hand washing.

According to the CDC, hand washing with soap and running water is best. Hands should be washed with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. Pay special attention to the area between fingers and around fingernails.

If these are unavailable, use hand sanitizers, but wash hands well as soon as a sink and soap are available.

For more information, visit

Judy Harrison is a food safety specialist with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

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