Seriously though, it’s hard to find research that actually correlates food safety with effective hair restraint. While the food code states:
Consumers are particularly sensitive to food contaminated by hair. Hair can be both a direct and indirect vehicle of contamination. Food employees may contaminate their hands when they touch their hair. A hair restraint keeps dislodged hair from ending up in the food and may deter employees from touching their hair.
There’s no actual scientific literature referenced however, nor any outbreak where hair was specifically implicated, though that would be under general hygiene and contamination from food service workers as root cause. Most telling is the fact that FDA first states that it is a consumer issue rather than a contamination one. If contamination from hair were such a proven issue, hair restraints would be required for arm hair, eyebrows, and any other situation in which it poses a threat.
But fear not, some research does exist that provides a better link between hair restraint and food safety. Behold, from 1965:
So…wow. Granted these hair samples included nose hair (where’s that hair restraint requirement?) and were collected from patients and hospital staff, but it’s still pretty compelling! While the study focused on hospital acquired infections and included lots of those organisms, S. aureus and E. coli made their appearances and are obviously potential pathogens if introduced to food and allowed to propagate.
I’ve never seen this data referenced before and it’s a nice resource when explaining why hairnets are a thing even in environments where hair is unlikely to get into the product.
The list of found pathogens illustrates my point made in the comic, humans are gross up close. Keep your body parts out of the food whenever possible, and wear your damn hairnet.
Bonus comic panel for those who read this far:
Summers, Margaret M., P. F. Lynch, and T. Black. “Hair as a reservoir of staphylococci.” Journal of clinical pathology 18.1 (1965): 13-15.
US Food and Drug Administration. “Food code 2013.” US Food and Drug Administration, College Park, MD (2013).