While it certainly doesn’t make for comfortable dining or leisurely food shopping, it is a fact that danger lurks around the corner of every restaurant (fast food chains, slow food and otherwise) and along every aisle in every supermarket and grocery store.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit consumer group, if farmers, chefs, food processors, cooks, and servers focused on safety, the majority of the food-borne illnesses afflicting the modern world could be prevented. Cleaning within the food industry is a formidable task and not one for sissies (just like old age). It is crucial, however, to the maintenance of food safety and proper sanitation.
Ignorance is bliss (sort of) when it comes to dining in fast food restaurants. According to microbiologist, Jeff Kornacki, PhD, although he does eat as fast food restaurants once in a while, he does so with more than a tinge of fear in his well educated heart. He can’t help but turn his eyes towards the kitchen where the many unhygienic variables in this sanitation horror plot unfold to all those who can bear to watch.
In his own words: “I’ve seen people making sandwiches reach into one set of ingredients and then another—olives, lettuce, pickles, and they’re handling it all. They have plastic over their hands and are wiping off counters with a wet cloth that has been around all morning. And if they don’t change their gloves, they’ve transferred a vast population of microbes from the cloth onto the food.”
Food Sanitation And Hygiene In Food Service Establishments
Cleanliness has become a topic of the highest priority within the food processing industry. The matter of sanitation has been propelled to the forefront of operational considerations due to waning consumer confidence in both food products and perceptions of cleanliness. Our nation’s food processing industry has remained largely under-supervised and poorly regulated.
High profile television reports have targeted the industry and have brought attention to the dangers associated with it, which include unethical food purveyors who sell grossly outdated foods and have no regard for public safety because they know they can get away with it. This has brought about a tremendous increase in negligence lawsuits and created a challenging business environment. In addition, out of pocket costs for food related illnesses can be and often are prohibitive. In the case of one food service chain, penalties ranged from $5,000 to $30,000 per occurrence.
Hygiene Practices Studies And Statistics
There can be no overemphasis on the importance of cleanliness when it comes to food service and processing. According to Randy Wahl, senior vice president of M/A/R/C, a marketing research and consulting firm, headquartered in Irving, Texas: “Clearly, cleanliness is an important component of the consumer experience. “This has a direct impact on the amount of spending a retailer can capture.”
A retail consumer study M/A/R/C conducted a few years ago indicated that 14% of consumers polled said they would not return to any kind of store they felt was unclean. Twenty-nine percent said they would return to such an establishment but only if it were absolutely necessary. While this study focused on retail establishments, the findings are noteworthy because they relates to quick-service sectors, such as those found in supermarkets, grocery stores and fast food eateries.
Equally eye-opening is a recent Procter & Gamble survey entitled: Cleaning in a Down Economy.” It revealed that 85% of surveyed cleaning professionals in the food service and hospitality sectors admitted to having adopted a “doing more with less” approach to cleaning facilities in poor economic conditions. Ninety-one percent of those who support this mindset have also stated that that they are more than likely to continue doing so even if the economy shows signs of improving.
Global Hygiene Sanitation Issues
Today, the global economy connects local food vendors to international markets on an unprecedented scale. Food production, processing and transportation often traverse the borders of many nations. Contaminated food can arrive from countries in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
According to Dr Margaret Chan, Director of the World Health Organization (WHO): “Sanitation is a cornerstone of public health. Improved sanitation contributes enormously to human health and well being, especially for girls and women. We know that simple, achievable interventions can reduce the risk of contracting diseases by a third.”
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) was founded in 2000, and its goal for the last 18 years has been the continuous improvement in food safety management systems and the assurance of safe food delivery to concerned business owners and managers. In 2007, major retailers began to specify that their food sellers must meet the certified standards established by GFSI. Today, this certification is commonplace for many food and beverage processors, both large and small scale.
Effective Sanitation Solutions For The Food Industry
The first model of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Code was established in 1963. Each subsequent year, a newer version has evolved based on expanded knowledge of good manufacturing practices, more inclusive hazard analysis and critical control points. The Food Code covers all the important aspects of food service and food retail operations, from management and personnel to compliance and enforcement.
According to Sarah Klein, senior staff attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Food Safety Program, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) focuses on the prevention of food contamination as opposed to the response and treatment of tainted food that can cause illness. Although this specific act concerns farms and processors, restaurants and supermarkets can also benefit from its imposed standards.
Food contaminants fall into three major categories: biological, chemical, and physical. Biological includes microorganisms; chemical encompasses cleaning solvents and pest control and physical involves hair, dirt, or other matter.
What Are The Key Food Target Zones?
For many food safety experts, all mandatory food safety programs should be considered as target zones that comprise a multi-barrier system, like the sections on a dart or archery board. The first area, Zone #1, is the food contact zone. This critical segment must be protected at all costs, and all food hygiene control programs must focus on hindering pathogens and spoilage microbes from compromising this vital area.
Zone #2 represents the pro-active approach, which is to maintain control of pathogens outwardly from the indirect food contact areas to zone#3, which is comprised of the immediate environment surrounding the food processing area and zone #4, which covers the general vicinity of the food plant. Maintaining control over zones four and three minimize the risk for zones two and one.
7 Important Safety Hygiene Steps For Food Service Businesses
1) Separate the Serving and Other Areas From The Kitchen
This helps to prevent cross contamination issues during food processing. In restaurants, isolating other areas such as the dish/tray washing section from the main prep area and the serving section aids in this aspect and for food processing. The butcher room in food industry operations, where raw meat produce products are processed, should be separated from the main kitchen as well. In addition, refrigerators, freezers and dry good storage facilities should also be segregated.
2) Use Colored Cutting Boards
Cross-contamination is one of the most common causes of food-born illness. By purchasing cutting boards in a variety of colors, and designating each color to be used only for a specific product and/or function, such as fresh produce, raw meat, poultry or seafood, these boards can help to reduce the possibility of spreading the pathogens that cause disease. They should always be cleaned before and after use, and once they become worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, they should be replaced.
3) Utilize Day Dots And Labeling
Food products should be properly rotated, which can be done efficiently by correctly labeling and day-dotting all covered food products. This rotation is vital to food safety processes and provides the freshest product possible. These labels help to prevent spoilage and ensure consistent, high-quality meals for each customer. They are also compliant with FDA guidelines about adhering to food safety protocols. One other ancillary benefit from adopting this daily practice of requiring restaurant staff to sign off on their work concerns the nurturing of a greater sense of personal pride in the products they serve.
4) Establish A Regular, Accountable Cleaning Schedule
Let’s face it. Employees are generally not clamoring to clean floors, drains, and sinks, or to mop bathroom floors for that matter. Consequently, employees often defer these tasks until these important hygienic chores get to the point of being bigger, messier problems. And therein lies the problem.
So, it’s imperative that regular cleanings become a major concern in the minds and actions of both owners and employees. Managers must take the time when dealing with new employees to train them on how they can do their part in keeping the restaurant sanitary and presentable. This should be the case even when part-time or temporary help are involved. Proper training and awareness will help to shift priorities.
It should come as no surprise that the real problem here is time. That is why many business owners and managers within the restaurant and food industry employ the services of those they can trust with these necessary but unpleasant tasks. For our teams at Pestco, proper sanitation, environmental odor control, pest management and air freshening solutions represent just “another day at the office.”
5) Create A Product and Worker Flow Design
A myriad of environmental sanitation issues arise from inadequate or poor facility flow, whether it’s a large food plant or a basic kitchen. Restaurants are complex organizations that have evolved over many years of human history and are more complex than the uninitiated may realize. Restaurants are a unique industry in the sense that they are both consumer service providers and finished goods manufacturers. Both sales and production occur at the site of consumption. This is why flow design is so very important.
Many food processing and food service facilities use drop-ceiling tiles because they are usually reasonably priced, but they are also porous and very difficult to clean. Better choices are plastic, non-absorbent panels or those made from food-grade aluminum or stainless steel. Air vents must be accessible to allow for frequent, easy sanitation in any active food service facility, and any vertical piping or drop-down utilities should be protected with food plant-approved caulk, which will still crack over time and require periodic maintenance by professionals.
Proper restaurant sanitation can be a continuous nightmare if the walls are not constructed of either nonporous, cleanable materials or porous materials that are readily sealed. All wall-to-ceiling and wall-to-floor junctions should be curved where the wall meets the ceiling to minimize microbial niches and prevent food, dirt, or debris accumulations. Ceilings and electrical pipes/conduits must be properly sealed around junctions to prevent contaminant niches.
6) Enforce Cross Contamination Education
Cross contamination refers to the transfer of harmful pathogens to food from other foods, cutting boards and utensils utensils, which can easily occur out of ignorance or haste. This is a common factor in the spread of food borne diseases. This happens most frequently when handling raw meat, poultry and seafood. Juices from these protein sources, which often contain harmful bacteria, must be kept separate from already cooked or ready-to-eat foods and fresh produce. Keeping foods apart as well as cleaning and sanitizing all work surfaces, equipment and utensils after each and every use are very important strategies in preventing cross contamination.
An education program for restaurant and hospitality workers must also include a personal hygiene regimen. Food handlers can lessen the possibility of cross contamination by implementing proper hand washing, hair restraints such as nets, and glove use. Food handlers should stay at home if they are ill and cover any exposed wounds. According to Joshua Katz, PhD, new director of the Food Marketing Institute’s Food Safety Programs in Arlington, Virginia, employee education and training as well as effective monitoring and recordkeeping by management must work in tandem in order to provide successful solutions.
7) Engage A Facility Hygiene Maintenance Company
The suggestions mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg (not lettuce) when it comes to food safety procedures and education, and by implementing these strategies, restaurant owners and managers are certain to improve operations and reduce the risk of spreading food-borne diseases. To further protect your business, it’s also important to engage a professional facility hygiene services company that can provide ongoing facility and restroom sanitation solutions, environmental odor control, pest control and management and air freshening strategies, so that all food borne-illnesses can become unpleasant remnants of the past.
Pittsburgh Facility Hygiene Control Solutions
Complete Facility Care is a three-pronged collaborative hygiene care option for industrial and commercial spaces throughout our hometown of Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania, Cleveland, Ohio and West Virginia. Recognizing the manifold hygiene challenges restaurants and businesses in the food industry face, we have combined pest control and management solutions, odor control and air freshening strategies from the masters at Air-Scent and superior hygiene maintenance provided by the specialists at Enviro-Master into one bundled array of diverse services. Collectively, these options represent more than seventy years of professional care and commitment to our many customers.
Our insect control and management programs include top-of-the-line skillful monitoring as part of the solution as well as the careful application of approved insecticides. Insects spread filth and disease and can ruin even the best of company reputations. Rodents too have an icky power all their own that screams of unclean restaurant conditions and requires very aggressive measures.
Coupling with Air-Scent for environmental odor and air freshening solutions and Enviro-Master, a leader in restroom hygiene, whose mission in life is to make the world cleaner one bathroom at a time, presents a combination of cost-effective, necessary services that no food industry business owner or manager should ignore.
Pest Control For Restaurants, Grocery Stores & Supermarkets
For seventy years, our family-run, commercial pest control and pest management company has provided professional and efficient services to loyal customers. Reputation is everything and we specialize in pest and rodent control-related services specific to commercial and industrial spaces. Our goal is always to exceed customer expectations and we specialize in commercial pest emergencies.
Our licensed technicians are equipped with the most innovative and cutting edge strategies and attend monthly workshops to keep everyone on our team on top of new insights into insect and rodent behavior. We are supportive, and part of our job is to help our customers through the challenging and protracted process of both pest control and exclusion services and the establishment of sanitation monitoring procedures. We are also the only commercial company of our kind within the United States in that we manufacture the products we use. All of our products are made in our 80,000 square-foot North Pittsburgh facility.
Contact Pestco today! We’re here to help and they can transform your commercial or industrial space into a clean, pest-free, sweet smelling and hygienic environment sooner than you could even imagine.
Final thought on sanitation: Sanitation is not a dirty word unless one is referring to the lack thereof ~ Anonymous