You don't just wake up one day with a food safety culture at work, but it takes effort on the part of management, and of course follow-through by employees. The objective is for staff to continue positive food safety practices and good behaviors long-term, which essentially is an expression of the food safety culture.
Creating a culture of food safety applies to a variety of food safety principles in a foodservice operation, from personal hygiene to temperature controls. Surface cleaning is one essential area to consider when implementing a food safety culture at work.
One study of health department inspections in 2016 showed that 21% of food establishments had soiled non-food contact surfaces observed during the audit, and 18.2% of establishments were out of compliance for having cleaned and sanitized food contact surfaces in all areas.*
Another study showed dangerous pathogens, including Listeria, Salmonella and Staphylococcus in foodservice environments at alarming rates: 49% of kitchen floors, 46% of mops and buckets, 66% of floors and drains contained one or more of these bacteria**. A recent FDA research study demonstrated that contaminated faucets and door handles in restrooms significantly contribute to transmission of the Norovirus in foodservice establishments.
If not kept clean, bacteria growing on interior surfaces of ice machines and areas that are constantly exposed to clinging water droplets and warmth can develop a layer of slime formation called biofilm. This biofilm has a shielding effect on the bacterial cells that live within them, making their removal more difficult. Biofilm can be a continual source of pathogens and spoilage organisms.
Keeping surfaces clean is critical in maintaining a safe restaurant environment to reduce debris and microorganisms to safe levels, and to minimize risk of cross-contamination and foodborne illness. Cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces is especially critical (e.g.,cutting boards, utensils, knives, slicers, and other work surfaces,) but this also applies to cleaning non-food contact surfaces such as floors, drains and large equipment.
Enhance your food safety program with these Surface cleaning tips for food contact surfaces:
- Use EPA registered chemicals for cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces according to labeled directions.
- Have cleaning products readily available, including chemicals, detergents, mops, brushes, etc
- Clean food contact surfaces and equipment between tasks or in between raw and ready-to-eat foods (cutting boards, knives, slicers, etc.)
- Wash, rinse and sanitize all food contact surfaces prior to food preparation
- If food contact utensil or equipment is in continuous use, clean and re-sanitize it every four hours
- Train staff on mixing and testing chemical concentrations of sanitizers in warewashing areas and 3 compartment sinks according to labeled directions
- Have guidelines in place for filling sanitizer buckets/wiping cloths, including testing for proper chemical concentrations in sanitizer buckets and replacing solutions when needed.
Have a written schedule for periodic cleaning of non-food contact surfaces:
- Restroom floors, counters, stalls and especially faucets and door handles
- Menus, dining tables, chairs, booths
- Walk-ins and storage areas
- Ice machines, floors and drains
- Use color-coded cleaning tools for different zones of the operation, to prevent cross contaminations between areas
Building a food safety culture is a cooperative effort between management and staff in a foodservice operation. Training and positive reinforcement is important for making surface cleaning a priority and consistently practiced by employees. Here are some tips for increasing awareness and motivation in your workplace:
- Management establishes guidelines, models proper cleaning practices and encourages staff in a positive way
- Initial employee education and ongoing training to ensure correct protocols are followed-short, interactive sessions are best
- Posters and bi-lingual wall charts to keep cleaning methods a significant concern for staff
- Monitoring and record keeping of cleaning and sanitizing tasks (i.e., daily or weekly self-checks)
Ongoing evaluations by management and making corrective actions as you go, will help towards your goal of continuous improvement and efficiency of cleaning methods in your operation.
By Cindy Rice, FS, CP-FS,MSPH
*Data from Health Department
**Data from 100 foodservice locations screened for Listeria, Staphylococcus and Salmonella. Presumptive positives.