Cleaning and Sanitizing Your Way to Food Safety Health
Imagine a busy kitchen with multiple workers and various activities - slicing bread, cutting chicken, chopping lettuce on cutting boards of no particular color or type. Suddenly someone needs to slice bread for a table, runs into the kitchen, grabs the nearest available knife and cutting board, and slices the bread. Unbeknownst to that person, a chef had just cut chicken on that same board. The bread is now contaminated, and the risk of causing foodborne illness to an unsuspecting customer exists. Certainly, color-coded equipment could help prevent bacterial contamination between raw animal foods and ready to items, but it still comes down to proper cleaning and sanitizing to prevent pathogens from sickening your customers.
Another major risk in foodservice is Listeria monocytogenes, which is can be present in the air and floor drains - it can grow in cold, moist, foods, such as ready-to-eat deli meats, ice cream and salads. Deli slicers can also be at risk for harboring Listeria monocytogenes bacteria and they need to be cleaned and sanitized diligently.
Finally, consider the fact that the restaurant business can be a dirty mess … quite literally. Biohazards abound in food establishments from a multitude of sources and clean-up of bodily fluids is a more necessary occurrence than you would think, especially in the restrooms.
Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S., and can be commonly found in fecal matter and vomitus of an infected person. The virus particles can become airborne during vomiting and spread to a diameter of 20 feet1 around the “point of impact.” Transmission of the virus can then occur through poor personal hygiene, contaminated surfaces or breathing in of virus particles - it only takes about 18 norovirus particles to cause infection2. Studies have shown that every gram of infected fecal matter contains 100,000 particles of Norovirus3. Any vomit or diarrheal event should be treated as a potential for norovirus transmission. E. coli and Hepatitis A outbreaks have also threatened the viability of restaurants, as seen all over the media in recent years. These pathogens are found in fecal matter and can easily be transmitted through contaminated surfaces and poor personal hygiene of food workers.
All of these scenarios can be made right by proper cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces, and consider these tips:
- Wash, rinse and sanitize food contact surfaces after every use, or every 4 hours in continuous use. This applies to deli slicers, cutting boards, utensils, work surfaces, and food processing equipment
- Have the proper tools and chemicals for cleaning, and consider color-coded materials for different zones of your operation, e.g., to prevent spreading contaminants from restroom to kitchen
- Test sanitizing solutions in automatic warewashers, sanitizer buckets and 3-compartment sinks for proper chemical concentration
- For hot water sanitizing in automatic dishwashers, ensure 160˚F surface temperatures on food contact surfaces (rinse water between 180˚F and 194˚F)
Special procedures for biohazards clean-ups:
- Have written clean-up procedures for vomit or diarrheal events, as required by the FDA Food Code
- Carry a Biohazard Spill kit or other materials for cleaning bodily fluids, including mop/bucket and Personal Protective Equipment, dedicated for cleaning vomit, diarrhea, and bodily fluids
- Disinfect contaminated areas with EPA approved disinfectant effective at destroying norovirus. Typically regular sanitizing methods are not effective at killing norovirus
- Train staff on proper response and cleaning measures before an accident occurs
Create a great first impression with meticulously clean floors, properly stocked restrooms and lighting conditions that provide the ambience you want in your particular facility. Then keep your foods well protected at every step in the flow of food, particularly in the area of cleaning and sanitizing to prevent food contamination and foodborne illness.
We might be tired of the phrase, “it’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN an outbreak will happen to your establishment.” But word to the wise: put preventive food safety procedures into practice today. You will help avoid costly outbreaks, and your customers will thank you.
Best Practices for Food Safety:
- Prevent cross contamination of raw animal foods with ready-to-eat foods
- Avoid bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods
- Purchase ingredients from approved sources
- Exclude ill food workers from the operation
- Keep cold foods cold, hot foods hot
- Cook foods properly
- Comply with health department orders in the event of a closure or illness investigation
By Cindy Rice, RS, CP-FS, MSPH
Eastern Food Safety