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Don’t Compromise: Clean and Sanitize
August 21, 2006
Don’t Compromise: Clean and Sanitize
September is Food Safety Education Month and the subject is cleaning and sanitizing. Chefs, food service directors, managers and staff try to practice safe food handling at every turn in the kitchen. Don’t let that effort go down the drain by slacking off on the many aspects of sanitation. That includes dish and warewashing techniques (pots, pans, equipment), and cleaning all the areas that give us that “neat as a pin” appearance in your customers eyes. Customers seldom fail to bring that soiled silverware or glass with lipstick on it to the attention of the manager or wait staff. Improperly cleaning and sanitizing of food contact equipment does allow transmission of pathogenic microorganisms to food and ultimately our customer.
Cleaning vs. Sanitizing—Cleaning is the process of removing food and other types of soil from a surface (what you can see). Sanitizing is the process of reducing the number of microorganisms on a clean surface to safe levels (removing microorganisms you cannot see). Both can be done with heat or chemicals. Sometimes we misuse terms regarding sanitation, so to further clarify definitions for killing microorganisms, disinfection and sterilization methods are much higher levels of microorganism destruction than sanitizing. They are done by higher heat or higher chemical concentration or just stronger chemicals. Disinfection might be used for non-food contact surfaces such as floors or walls. Sterilization is used on medical equipment and some food processing equipment, but not in a kitchen environment.
Any surface that comes in contact with food such as a cutting board or utensil must be cleaned and sanitized:
Dishwashing Machine Operation—For the best cleaning, start with the right equipment. Pots and pans usually need manual 3 compartment sink process. Dishes, glassware, and flatware are best washed in a commercial automatic dishwasher. Selection of the right machine depends on several factors, including the overall volume and type of wares to wash and sanitize. Machines range in size from single-tank, stationary-rack units to flight-type conveyor units. According to the National Association of Foodservice Equipment Manufacturers, dish machines are rated by the number of rack loaded with an average of 20 dishes that can be properly washed per hour. It’s critical to match the machines rating to your real-life dish count.
Operators can choose ‘high-temperature” or” low-temp” machines. High-temp sanitize using very hot water. Their rinse cycle must be at least180°F, although no higher than 194°F. Temperatures of 195°F and above can cause food particles to “bake” onto the dish surface from the steam. Machines using chemical sanitizers operate at lower temperatures (120°F) and use chlorine to sanitize that is injected into the final rinse. Even though machines are “automatic”, their efficiency is dependent upon the human factor – dish-room personnel, so remember these points:
Three Compartment Sinks –Pots, pans, utensils, and bar glassware are typically washed manually in a three-compartment sink. All sinks should be rinsed and cleaned prior to use. The first sink is for pre-soaking and washing. At least 110°F (as hot as you can stand) will help the detergent work. Before filling the second and third sinks, scrape any pots and pans that need presoaking and place them in the filled first sink. Those extra minutes in the hot water will help loosen the dried-on particles. Fill the second sink – the rinsing compartment—with warm water too (at least 110°F). Then fill the third sink – the sanitizing compartment. Measure your sanitizer accurately considering the gallons of water in the 3rd sink. Based on the sanitizer manufacturer’s recommendations and label instructions, use water temperature of 75°F to 120°F to sanitize. Do not rinse off the sanitizer. Air dry all equipment – do not towel dry.
Sanitizer effectiveness is based on three factors: 1) concentration of the solution in water; 2) water temperature; and 3) contact time with the dishes. Sanitizers must be EPA registered and test kits are required by the FDA Food Code and your regulatory agency that inspects your facility. Chlorine and quaternary ammonium sanitizers are the most common in food service. Chlorine-based sanitizers should be 50-100 parts per million (ppm’s) concentration and contact time is 7 seconds or more. Quaternary based sanitizers are usually 150 to 200 ppm’s concentration and 30 seconds contact time. All chemical sanitizers have pros and cons regarding characteristics such as kindness to skin, staining, smell, ability to work in hard water, effects on metal, and cost per use, so ask your chemical supplier to help you make the right choice.
Some additional hints for the dishwashing process:
Bottom Line: So, as the title says, “don’t compromise – clean and sanitize.” Check out more sanitation training tips in weekly segments for your crew at the National Food Safety Education Month website at http://www.nraef.org/nfsem/
The foregoing is offered only to assist you in becoming informed and is not intended to nor does it constitute comprehensive foodsafety advice. Each operator is encouraged to develop a comprehensive food safety program.