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Resurgence of Sanitation in Foodservice | Ecolab Food Safety Solutions
sanitation in foodservice opening during covid-19 outbreak

Resurgence of Sanitation in Foodservice

By Cindy Rice, RS

Through no fault of anyone, the food and hospitality industry has been crippled by the wildfire that is COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, however, industry has listened to the guidance of scientific and academic professionals, CDC, EPA and FDA, responding responsibly to protect customers, employees and the food supply. They have changed their meal delivery models, secured food packaging, embraced social distancing and reinforced personal hygiene measures with a determination to protect the public health and their own companies.

Another significant control measure for COVID-19 event has been the intense focus on sanitation in the workplace, which is sure to have lasting effects in our daily operations. Sanitation refers to cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces to remove soil, grease, impurities and microorganisms from surfaces.

What is the difference between sanitizing and disinfection? “Sanitizing” reduces microorganisms to safe levels (e.g., achieving a 5-log reduction in microbial count on food contact surfaces1) and is what helps to make food contact surfaces safe after washing and rinsing. “Disinfection” is a more aggressive process that destroys or irreversibly inactivates microorganisms In instances such as COVID-19 or morovirus contamination, disinfection is needed to reduce transmission risks.

In light of the continuing COVID-19 risk, high touch non-food contact surfaces should be routinely cleaned and disinfected, and food contact surfaces should be washed, rinsed and sanitized as usual, using chemical agents that are typically used in these areas. CDC recommends enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures after persons who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 have been in the facility, and disinfection of non-food contact high touch points and surfaces that may have been contaminated with the virus. Be sure that surfaces are washed and rinsed before sanitizing or disinfecting, so that the chemicals can effectively destroy microorganisms.

Here are basic steps for cleaning and disinfecting, and some best practices for different zones of your food establishment.

  • Secure the right chemical solutions. EPA has identified chemicals for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. These should be used according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Clean surface with warm detergent solution, rinse with potable water
  • Wipe or spray with Disinfectant solution. Allow surface to remain wet for the time specified on the product’s label.
  • Air Dry, refer to manufacturer’s instructions for proper dry time
  • If a food contact surface is suspected of COVID-19 contamination, wash, rinse, disinfect, air dry the surface, then rinse with potable water, and sanitize the surface.
cleaning and disinfecting b est practices for food establishments

(The disinfection process for surfaces suspected of norovirus contamination is similar to COVID-19. Follow CDC guidance and use chemicals at the proper concentration, registered as effective against norovirus by the Environmental Protection Agency.)


  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer stations (at least 60% alcohol) for patrons
  • Increase cleaning and disinfecting frequency for high-touch surfaces (e.g., door handles, push plates, thresholds, hand railings, tables, chairs, high chairs, booths, menus, bill folders, trash receptacle touch points, bar area)
  • Once cleaned, apply a “sanitized” or “disinfected” label to help notify customers that high-touch surfaces have been sanitized or disinfected for their protection


  • Clean and disinfect all public restroom surfaces and don’t forget about door handles, faucets, toilet handles, towel dispenser handle, soap dispenser push plates, baby changing station, trash receptacle touch points.
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer stations outside of restrooms.
    sanitizer label for restaurants

alcohol-based hand sanitizers in foodservice operations


  • Provide fully stocked hand sinks, and alcohol-based hand sanitizer stations.
  • Increase cleaning and disinfecting for high-touch surfaces (e.g., door handles, push plates, equipment door handles and push pads, beverage dispenser handles, ice scoops, walk-in refrigerator and plastic freezer curtains, faucet handles , soap dispenser push plates, towel dispenser handle, trash receptacle touch points, cleaning tools, buckets, telephone keypad/hand set, computer pads)

As restaurants are getting accustomed to a “new normal” for their operations, baseline protocols for sanitation are at the forefront, and are critical for their reopening and moving forward. Effective sanitation, along with a strong illness policy, aggressive handwashing and glove changes, is the best recipe for prevention and successfully beating pathogens that plague our industry.

Resurgence Of Sanitation

Did you know that there’s an important difference between sanitizing and disinfecting? Learn how this difference can help you keep your operations cleaner and safer.

Log Reduction Means:

1 log reduction means the number of germs is 10 times smaller

2 log reduction means the number of germs is 100 times smaller

3 log reduction means the number of germs is 1000 times smaller

4 log reduction means the number of germs is 10,000 times smaller

5 log reduction means the number of germs is 100,000 times smaller


CDC Guidance for Business against Coronovirus
CDC Cleaning and Disinfecting protocols from CDC
EPA registered chemicals for disinfection
CDC Norovirus Prevention Guidance