Food hygiene for thought

13th of July 2018
Food hygiene for thought

A look at the importance of cleaning in kitchens, how cleaning should be carried out and how often. Plus ways in which food hygiene awareness can be raised among employees, to ensure they take a proactive approach to personal hygiene and daily cleaning. Luke Rutterford, technical manager at Rentokil Specialist Hygiene and Dr Peter Barratt, technical manager for Initial Washroom Hygiene write for ECJ.

The food and service industries must meet strict hygiene regulations in order to reduce the risk of contamination in their premises. As facilities managers are aware, maintaining high levels of hygiene is essential to prevent situations that could compromise the safety of customers and staff. Previous hygiene scandals in the media have shown the undesirable effects of hygiene lapses on profitability, as well as the long-term reputation of a business. This year scandal-hit food manufacturer 2 Sisters reported €43 billion in losses in 2017, amid a chicken hygiene crisis.

Managing a facility with high footfall can be hectic - and keeping the food preparation and dining areas sparkling clean is sometimes easier said than done. In such a busy environment, how can facilities managers look to ensure they keep food preparation areas clean and hygienic, preventing the spread of germs and unwanted illnesses?

The battle against germs

Communal areas can provide the perfect breeding and distribution ground for bacteria and other germs if they are not cleaned with the necessary frequency and care. It may go without saying, but a daily cleaning routine is crucial. Ensuring employees on your premises remain up to scratch with daily cleaning procedures, and honour the cleaning itinerary, is the first step to a clean kitchen.

It is essential cleaning is carried out both proactively and reactively in food preparation areas. Proactive cleaning involves routine disinfection of shared contact points in communal areas. Reactive cleaning occurs as necessary, such as during an outbreak of illness or when a known infection is presented by an employee or customer who has visited your premises.

For example Norovirus, one of the most commonly spread illnesses, can cause sickness, stomach pain and aching limbs. An individual can become infected after encountering only a few viral particles. If staff or customers become ill, or report back with symptoms of illness, a deep clean is recommended and they should stay away from work for 48 hours after symptoms have ceased, in order to prevent recontamination.

The simplest way to prevent spread of infection in the first place is to stay on top of daily and weekly schedules for cleaning. Implementing timetables will ensure the cleaning is carried out on time and helps guarantee areas are not missed. A fortnightly, in-depth, top-to-bottom clean is also recommended in common ‘hot spots’ where pathogens are likely to be found – such as around grills, coffee machines, sinks and washrooms.

Between cleans, multipurpose biocidal cleaners can help keep treated areas contamination-free.

Going that extra mile

In addition to this, a thorough deep clean should be carried out on a regular basis – ideally twice a year and by a professional cleaning company. The best time for a deep clean is during quieter trading times when disruption to your facility can be minimised; the period before the summer rush begins would be a good time to organise this.

Grease and oil particles can coat the floors and food preparation surfaces in the kitchen of your premises – as well as the nooks and crannies that are harder to access. Routine cleaning alone will not suffice as a preventative method against deposits of dirt, dust and grease in hard-to-reach areas. These can easily accumulate on less accessible surfaces such as walls, ceilings, lights and appliance fittings − providing the perfect environment for germs to multiply.

Grease, carbon and condensation can also form in ventilation ducts in your kitchen. If allowed to build up, air flow can be restricted, causing foul smells and temperature control issues. Even more concerning is the increased risk of bacterial and fungal development in the vent. This could put your facility at risk of breaching the The Food Safety Act 1990.

Protecting your assets

As well as helping to prevent the build-up or spread of pathogens, or in order to ensure you are compliant with health and safety regulations, a deep clean can be an important precaution to protect your assets and avoid unwanted costs down the line. Maintaining high standards of cleanliness can improve the life span of your equipment.

For example, vent blockages in your kitchen may reduce output, increase costs through greater power usage and damage often expensive equipment. Overall, the benefits of specialist deep cleaning can therefore significantly outweigh any costs incurred.

Targeting vents could also help to protect the safety of visitors to your premises by reducing the risk of a fire. A deep clean removes residual carbon and oil, which can sometimes be responsible for causing fires.

A tailored solution

Each facility is different and requires a different course of action. A consultation should be undertaken that analyses several factors to determine the required frequency of in-house deep cleaning as well as how specialist disinfection should be implemented to enhance everyday infection control measures. If you are unsure of how regularly a premise requires cleaning, it is best to consult a professional who is trained to understand latest legislation requirements and how to achieve excellent hygiene standards.

Hand-ling personal hygiene

Most bacteria and 80 per cent of viruses are transmissible through touch so the extremely simple step of effective hand washing after visiting the washroom and before preparing food will help prevent employee illness and cross contamination.

Promoting good hand hygiene amongst your employees can have a noticeable impact on your business’s hygiene standards. This can be achieved through these four simple steps:

1. Wet your hands using clean, running water – preferably warm water – and apply soap, if possible using a no-touch dispenser to avoid washroom cross contamination.

2. Rub soap all over your hands, covering the front, back, fingers, thumbs and nails. This helps to remove the maximum number of bacteria and viruses.

3. Rinse your hands again with clean running water. The entire hand washing process should take around 20-30 seconds – that’s about the time it takes to sing happy birthday twice.

4. Dry your hands thoroughly. Damp hands spread 1,000 times more bacteria than dry hands, so the door handle of the washroom is likely to become contaminated if hand drying is missed.

5. Sanitise your hands. Alcohol-free hand sanitisers should be available in catering environments, as they provide an effective, long-lasting barrier to protect against microorganisms.

Minimising touch points

The layout of your washrooms can also have a direct impact on overall hygiene levels in your entire premises. Limiting the number of touch points in communal areas, for example, by reducing the number of handles in your washroom, can help to prevent the spread of germs to the kitchen. No-touch products such as taps, soap dispensers, hand dryers and sanitary bins are available, and can dramatically reduce cross-contamination.

You can also consider an odour-killing air purifier that helps to eradicate airborne bacteria. Given the vast number of surfaces and objects vulnerable to cross-contamination in cafés, it is critical that managers enforce these practices so that staff and customers are protected and their reputation remains intact.

Combining specialist deep cleaning and the latest cleaning technologies, with a willingness among staff to meticulously follow hygienic procedures, you can keep your food preparation areas sparkling, and prevent the spread of harmful germs in any facility. As a result, you’ll not only be honouring legislative requirements, but guaranteeing happier, healthier staff and visitors.


Our Partners

  • ISSA Interclean
  • EFCI
  • EU-nited