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Importance of hygiene in kitchen back areas

Micro-organisms are unseen enemies in the kitchen and maintaining hygiene in kitchen back areas is crucial to ensure safe food for your customer, says Mousum Roy

To achieve appropriate levels of hygiene within the food preparation areas, cleaning practices, equipment cleaning, sanitation programmes and training needs should be considered as an integrated process for an establishment.

Very often we visit different hotels, restaurants to enjoy different kind of food, keeping in mind that the place is clean and safe. It is important to understand that good decorative establishment does not signify “safe food”. It clearly depends on the backend activities, which determines the quality of safe food.

Food prepared in restaurants and catering environments can easily get contaminated if handled in an improper way. This can put customers at serious risk of food poisoning. Not only is food hygiene important in ensuring that food is safe, personal hygiene also plays an important role in limiting the risk of contamination of food with harmful bacteria.

Mousum Roy

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 for raw and ready-to-eat food without cleaning or disinfecting in between. Importantly, failure to adequately wash hands after touching raw food or visiting the washroom plays a very important role in food contamination.

For most healthy human adults, most food poisoning incidents ‘merely’ causes diarrhoea and/or vomiting. A single food poisoning outbreak can result in the closure of a business through fines and loss of customers.

Consumers are now demanding higher and higher standards of food hygiene. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible for a food provider to overcome “bad press” associated with a food poisoning outbreak, particularly if the consequences prove fatal.

Sources of contamination

When contaminated food is consumed, that contamination can be from a number of sources including:

  • Contaminated “in the field”
  • The activity of pests
  • Inappropriate food handling
  • The food handler himself.

Hygiene control by cleaning and sanitation

It is important that not all of the pathogenic micro-organisms need to be destroyed to make food safe, as ‘small’ amounts of consumed micro-organisms are dealt with by the body’s immune system. That is why there is no requirement for sterilisation in food handling/preparation; there is only a requirement for disinfection/sanitisation. When the bacteria is reduced to a level not harmful to health, then the food/surface is considered to be safe.

Micro-organisms are unseen enemies in the kitchen. It is important that the products used in the kitchen are effective at killing them, without being hazardous to the materials used to construct the kitchen and its fixtures and fittings or the cleaning operator.

There are two basic methods of sanitising the surfaces,

  1. High temperature
  2. Chemicals sanitisers.

Cleaning systems

Essentially, there are four frequencies of cleaning within a kitchen:

  • After each use
  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly.

Frequencies are determined on the base-type of soil and the acceptance of controlling the soil level and micro organisms to acceptable limits.

Some surfaces need to be cleaned at all four frequencies and/or utilising different products at each frequency.

For example, dishwasher machines need to be cleaned after use and de-scaled weekly/monthly.

Daily cleaning is required to upkeep the kitchen, to visually look clean and to control the microbes. However, monthly deep cleaning is needed to control pest infestation and food poisoning.

Following are the general rules of cleaning:

  1. For deep cleaning, work in the direction from the ceiling to the floor.
  2. Clean from ‘clean’ to dirty, e.g. for a preparation table, work from the top surface to the floor.
  3. Dismantle equipment as far as possible e.g. remove doors, trays/shelves, gas rings, cooker knobs, filters, mixing paddles etc.
  4. Be aware of legislative requirements, such as age limits for handling meat slicers.
  5. ‘Drain’ items such as deep fat fryers, ice-cream makers etc.
  6. If possible, pull out large items, such as ovens and refrigerators for cleaning behind/under these items.
  7. Look for signs of infestation such as droppings and nests.
  8. Remove gross debris ‘by hand’, for example by brushing.
  9. Check all electrical equipment functions prior to and after cleaning.
  10. Ensure that all electrical equipment is isolated during cleaning.
  11. Use products in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions.
  12. Take great care with blades and sharp edges.
  13. If necessary, wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
  14. Use the correct dilution of product to aid cleaning/achieve required sanitisation.
  15. Ensure that sanitiser is in contact with surface for the required period to ensure sanitisation standards.
  16. Soak heavily soiled items to loosen dirt and aid cleaning.
  17. Pay particular attention to corners, ledges/rims, wheels, runners etc.
  18. Ensure that ‘hidden’ surfaces, such as under preparation tables and oven doors and the seals of refrigerators and freezers are not overlooked and cleaned/sanitised.
  19. Ensure that pilot-lights, refrigerators etc are relit/switched on after cleaning.
  20. 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 cleaning and sanitising job of 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, estimate the amount of time and skill needed to complete those tasks.

Create a master cleaning schedule, by defining the followings,

  • What should be cleaned
  • Who should clean it
  • When should it be cleaned
  • How it should be cleaned.

Choosing cleaning materials as per the cleaning needed and master cleaning schedule. It is important to choose the correct cleaning chemicals and appropriate tools and PPE.

Training to the employee, on master cleaning programme, different applications and its consequences and motivating them to get the high quality job.

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