The problem

Occupational dermatitis is one of the most widespread causes of ill health and affects workers in many industry sectors, including food processing and especially catering.

Nationally, across all industries, an estimated 84,000 people have dermatitis caused or made worse by their work. The food and catering industries account for about 10% of this figure.

Occupational dermatitis accounts for:

Causes of dermatitis

Water, soaps and detergents

In the catering and food occupations, the prolonged contact with water, soaps and detergents causes about 55% of dermatitis cases. This results in over 200 cases per year being reported by occupational physicians and dermatologists. Many additional cases will be seen by other medical professionals.


About 40% of dermatitis cases in the industry are caused by contact with foods. A wide variety of foods have been shown to cause dermatitis including sugar, flour/dough, fruits (especially citrus fruits), vegetables, spices, fish and meats.

Other causes

Contact dermatitis can also be caused by contact with coins, rubber/latex gloves, chemicals and cleaners and some alcohol-based hand sanitisers/rubs.

Managing prevention

Occupational dermatitis can be prevented by following a few simple precautions. Dermatitis is more easily prevented than cured and the costs of prevention are much less than those of a cure.

Find out if there is a problem

Decide what to do


Training and information to workers

An important element of prevention involves explaining to workers:

Updated 2021-09-01