Whenever we decide to eat out at a hotel or restaurant, we presume its kitchen to be clean and safe. But then, it is important to know that a good and attractive establishment does not necessarily signify ‘safe food’. The cleanliness and safety of the food we eat at such places clearly depends on the backend activities, i.e. the environment in the kitchen. Food prepared in restaurants and catering kitchens can easily get contaminated if it is handled in an improper way. This can put customers at a serious risk of food poisoning. It is not the food hygiene alone that ensures the safety of food, but the personal hygiene of chefs and other staff members who work in the kitchen too goes a long way in limiting the risk of contamination of food. Cross contamination of harmful bacteria can develop as a result of inappropriate cleaning of food preparation areas or from using the same chopping board or knife used for raw and ready-to-eat food – without cleaning or disinfecting it in between. Failure to adequately wash hands after touching raw food or visiting the washroom too plays a very important role in food contamination.
Sources of Contamination
- Contaminated ‘in the field’
- Inappropriate food handling
- The food handler himself
Frequencies of cleaning within a kitchen
- After each use
Frequencies are determined on the base-type of soil and the controlling of the soil level and micro-organisms to acceptable limits. Some surfaces need to be cleaned at all four frequencies and/or different products need to be utilised at each frequency. For example, dishwashing machine needs to be cleaned after use and de-scaled weekly/monthly. Daily cleaning is required for the kitchen’s upkeep, for a clean look and for controlling the microbes. However, monthly deep cleaning is needed to control pest infestation and food poisoning.
General rules of cleaning
- For deep cleaning, work in the direction from the ceiling to the floor.
- For a preparation table, work from the top surface to the floor.
- Dismantle equipment as far as possible. For example, remove doors, trays/shelves, gas rings, cooker knobs, filters and mixing paddles for cleaning.
- Be aware of legislative requirements such as age limits for handling meat slicers.
- ‘Drain’ items such as deep fat fryers or ice-cream makers.
- If possible, pull out large items such as ovens and refrigerators for cleaning behind/under these items.
- Look for signs of infestation such as droppings and nests.
- Remove gross debris ‘by hand’, for example by brushing.
- Check that all electrical equipment function before and after cleaning.
- Ensure that all electrical equipment are isolated during cleaning.
- Use products in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions.
- Take great care with blades and sharp edges.
- If necessary, wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
- Use the correct dilution of product to aid the cleaning process and achieve the required sanitization.
- Ensure that sanitizer is in contact with the surface for the required period to ensure sanitization standards.
- Soak heavily soiled items to loosen dirt and aid cleaning.
- Pay particular attention to corners, ledges/rims, wheels and runners.
- Ensure that ‘hidden’ surfaces such as the area under the preparation tables, oven doors, the seals of refrigerators and freezers are not overlooked.
- Ensure that pilot-lights and refrigerators are relit/switched on after cleaning.
- Report and repair/replace damaged items/surfaces.
Implementing a cleaning programme
A clean and sanitary environment is a prerequisite to an effective HACCP based food safety programme. A cleaning programme will give a system to organise all the cleaning and sanitizing jobs in a kitchen. There are some basic steps to design and implement the cleaning programme.
Identify cleaning needs by walking through each and every area of the facility. Look at the current process of cleaning and estimate the amount of time and skill needed to complete those tasks.
Create a master cleaning schedule by defining – what should be cleaned, who should clean it, when should it be cleaned and how should it be cleaned.
Choosing cleaning materials would be as per the requirement and the master cleaning schedule. It is important to choose the correct cleaning chemicals and appropriate tools & PPE.
It is important to impart training to the employees on master cleaning programme, different applications and their consequences and motivating them to aim for a high quality job.Mousum Roy Sr. Area Sales Manager (West), JohnsonDiversey