I'm curious whether state law requires restrooms to provide hot water for hand washing. We've recently been in a few area washrooms in restaurants and stores where there was only cold water available. Especially in restaurants, shouldn't there be a requirement for hot water?

I'm curious whether state law requires restrooms to provide hot water for hand washing. We've recently been in a few area washrooms in restaurants and stores where there was only cold water available. Especially in restaurants, shouldn't there be a requirement for hot water?

— C.E., Medford

There is indeed such a requirement, C.E.

Any establishment that serves food must provide sinks and hot water for hand washing in its restrooms, according to Dave Martin, coordinator of the state's food-borne illness prevention program.

It makes perfect sense, from a public health perspective. Hot soapy water is more effective than cold soapy water at dissolving the skin oils that can hold contaminants that cause food-borne illness. Highway rest areas and other public places where food is not served do not have the same requirements.

Martin emphasized that all restrooms in establishments where food is served must have sinks and hot water for hand washing. Setting aside a private washing area with hot water for staff while patrons have access only to cold water would be a violation of the law, he said.

Martin encouraged anyone who visits a restaurant where hot water is not available in the restroom to call Jackson County's environmental health office. The number is 541-774-8206.