Running a food service joint gets all the more challenging when the water supply is contaminated. It not only impacts the overall hygiene levels but also affects the food quality and safety. Lakshmikant K, CFO, Murugan Idli Shop, South India’s famous fast food chain speaks to Clean India Journal, on the remedial steps taken with the right advice from their partner MicroGO.
Setting new standards in food quality at its multiple outlets in India and abroad, Lakshmikant set records straight with any teething troubles which came on the way while making his central kitchen in Ambattur, Chennai.
It all started with Murugan Idli Shop’s centralized kitchen 15 years back, when it was found that the water supply lacked the quality required for a food grade consumption. “It was not as we anticipated. It was contaminated and had microorganisms.” As an instant reaction, the plumber was called and as advised the entire piping was replaced and the water tanks were cleaned thoroughly. “Despite regular cleaning, the water was foul.
“Despite the fact that the pipes were changed, the inside lining of the pipes were getting infected. We were unable to obtain the desired water and did not actually meet the biological test parameters. We were struggling with that at the time.
“We then got introduced to MicroGO to sort the situation.” Following a study, water purification solution was put in place. The water chemical treatment consisting of chlorine dioxide was introduced at the facility. A few milligrams of the human-friendly chemical was diluted in the water. This not only interacted with the water but also worked on the inner lining of the pipelines making it cleaner. The water was tested thereafter to ensure that it met the required parameters of food grade and contamination-free. The water passed the microbial test and the standards were set.
When it comes to food grade water, “the parameter must be set so that E.coli and coliform are not present in the water and the pH level is between 6.5 and 8.5. It must fall within these parameters. TDS levels in drinking water should not exceed 550.”
“We were previously using the UV filtration system. It wasn’t always effective. We had made significant investment in the system. However, we have replaced it with MicroGO’s cutting-edge technology.”
Simplifying the process further, an automated dosing pump has been installed to auto measure the chemical dispensing for water purification. “Earlier, we had to measure the chemical and pour it into the tank.”
In addition, MicroGO has now introduced a new auto dosing pump to clean the water from below the pipe to the top. Only the required chemical would be automatically picked up in this manner. The dosage is delivered by the pump. Initially, after a few trials, the pump has been recalibrated and it works well now.
“The water now contains no microorganisms. But the challenge did not end with water.”
The NABH has passed regulations that food handlers should wear hand gloves. “We were of the impression anyone wearing hand gloves was very clean. However, we were unaware that each one of us were touching multiple surfaces with the same hands wearing gloves. An individual wearing gloves is mopping the floor and if something fell on the floor, he or she would pick it up with the same gloved hands. We realised we had a problem on our hands. Even the dosa batter that we were making did not meet the standards. We experienced E.coli and coliform once more. We discovered that the counts were higher in the batter.”
MicroGO this time recommended an automatic hand sanitizer and issued instruction to our staff to sanitise their hands once every hour. It was suggested that the wiping material be kept in the production area while everything else be removed, and that the surrounding area be kept very clean. Furthermore, when an employee leaves the manufacturing gate and goes for his tea or uses the restroom, he should wash his legs and sanitise hands on his return to the production area.
“We hired someone to keep track of everything. And the functions are now smooth and functional. Employees no longer wear hand gloves. Every 45 minutes, we ask them to sanitise their hands.”
The usual complaint with hand sanitisers is the residue it leaves behind. “The solution we are using is non-greasy, cleans well and evaporates quickly. We are now sanitizing the floors with the same chemicals after shutting down the production unit in the evening. This procedure is repeated at the start of each day, one hour before we begin work.
Further modifications were brought about. “To ensure that the staff are wearing clean uniforms, we have them laundered every day. The staff directly go to the store, collect a clean & laundered uniform and then enter the production facility.
In the cooking area, usage of fingers or hands has been restricted. Only ladles or spatulas are used to touch food. Direct hand contact is avoided at all times. This improves the food quality.
The entire system is monitored through a sensor-based program installed by MicroGO.
“Here again their movements are monitored. Their entry and exit are recorded through a sensor-based access ID card. They are only permitted to leave the manufacturing area 8-9 times per week. This sensor card monitors the number of times an employee washes his hands as well.”
Such IoT based solutions enables one to obtain real time data and at the same time helps validate the practices followed for water used in the batter or for drinking. This ensures good standards and enables to produce safe and good products.
“So, everything is in order now, as standards are being met.”
As told to Valencia Fernandes,
Sub-editor, Clean India Journal