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Disposable dishcloths get HPA vote

The Health Protection Agency has advocated the use of disposable ‘dishcloths’ in the food preparation sector following a study of catering kitchens. HPA researchers who visited 120 restaurants and fast-food kitchens in the north-east of England discovered that 56% of the cloths tested were unacceptable – and that some carried faecal bacteria and listeria. Food and catering staff are becoming increasingly conscious of the need for hand hygiene, but many seem unaware of the problems that a textile dishcloth can pose. By replacing dishcloths with a disposable alternative, catering chiefs can potentially make the food preparation environment much safer.

The recommended HPA advise for restaurants is to use disposable cloths and change them regularly, and to employ separate cloths for areas where raw meat is processed.

The fact that they are colour-coded means it is easy to apportion a different cleaning task to each one. They are available in four colours and are designed to comply with HACCP regimes. They are highly absorbent and have a porous structure. This makes them easy to wring out and allows particles of trapped dirt and food matter to be washed away under the tap. The porous structure also means that the cloths dry quickly, which is crucial since moisture provides an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

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