FDA requires cleaning and sanitation practices to take place in the food facilities. Correct cleaning and sanitation procedures in the food industry protect the product and brand reputation of the restaurants. It ensures safe food consumption by employees and customers. Proper implementation of cleaning and sanitizing practices is imperative in the present scenario. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to safeguard workers and consumers. Restaurant owners must ensure safe handling and delivery of food to the consumers.
There are protocols and Covid-19 recommendations for cleaning and food sanitization in food facilities. These protocols must be in place as a continuous process in the kitchens of hotels.
All restaurants and other food service establishments should follow the following guidelines:
1. Wash Hands Often
Cleanliness begins by maintaining proper personal hygiene. Washing hands is of utmost importance for food safety. It is a basic practice which everyone must follow. Employees should ensure that they wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. This is imperative especially after touching high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, doorbells, kitchen sink, etc.
It is necessary for kitchen staff to wash their hands in a proper way before they handle and prepare food. Food handlers should also clean hands between the shifting of tasks. For example, washing hands between the handling of raw meat and cooked food. Unwashed hands transfer germs causing foodborne illness and other infectious diseases. Hence hand washing should be a strict norm that’s implemented and monitored. It is also advised that food should sanitize their hands at frequent intervals. An alcohol-based sanitizer would ensure germ and virus-free hands.
2. Clean Kitchen Equipment and Surfaces
It is important to clean and sanitize the entire kitchen area of the restaurants on a day to day basis. Food handlers must ensure to clean all the kitchen counters and surfaces. Ensure to wash the food preparation equipment like utensils, knives, cutting boards. Always use clean ice-makers, food and beverage equipment. It is best to wash kitchen equipment with warm water and let them air dry.
If any moisture is present on any equipment, one should clean them with a cotton cloth. Proper washing and rinsing remove food residue, grease, dirt, and invisible germs. Surface cleaning and sanitizing destroy disease-producing bacteria and viruses. It also prevents pests from inhabiting them. Preventing pest infestation is also an important part of any restaurant kitchen. Pests can contaminate food and water which may result in harmful diseases. Hence kitchen surfaces and countertops cleaning should be in place at frequent intervals.
3. Cleaning of Cleaning Tools and equipment
Proper cleaning tools and equipment too are a significant part of the kitchen. Clean and sanitize cleaning supplies like brooms, mops, sponges, squeegees, etc. every day. To clean the kitchen and equipment, one should have a clean set of cleaning tools. This will ensure efficient daily cleaning of kitchen and kitchen equipment. Well-maintained cleaning tools and equipment give desired results, and last longer. It is best to always clean and sanitize the cleaning tools and equipment.
Cleaning tools should first be dry cleaned and then pre-rinsed. This process will remove visible soils and debris. Wash the cleaning equipment with soap solution, rinse and let the equipment air dry. If not cleaned and disinfected in a proper way cleaning tools will spread germs and viruses. It may also result in microbial contamination of food. Always ensure to store the cleaning tools in a clean and dry area. To avoid cross-contamination between sanitation and production equipment, use color-coding. Equipment like vacuum cleaners, window cleaners, high-pressure cleaners, should be well maintained.
4. Cleaning and Sanitizing of High Touch Surfaces
Ensure to focus on the cleaning of the surfaces that get touched often and are used frequently. This includes doorknobs, switchboards, cart handles, elevator buttons, counters. Ensure to get these surfaces cleaned and sanitized at least once daily. Get the floors and other facility access areas with more traffic more often. Sanitize and disinfect areas with EPA registered disinfectants for a healthy, safe kitchen.
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5. Follow Correct Procedures for Food Sanitisation
It is necessary to cut off the damaged and bruised areas of veggies and fruits. Always rinse fruits and vegetables under running water to get rid of all dirt and residues. Use a food brush to clean firm fruits like watermelon and cucumbers. Clean them under running water. Take care that meat, eggs, and seafood are not washed together with vegetables, else they may cause foodborne illness. Do not wash any product which has a label of “pre-washed”.
6. Separate Food Items
Do not allow any cross-contamination of the food item. Always use separate cutting boards, cutters, slicers, and utensils to cook vegetables. A separate set of equipment should be available to cook meat, poultry, seafood products. All should be well washed with hot water to remove germs and viruses. Replace kitchen equipment from time to time before they get worn out. Use separate bags for meat, poultry, and seafood. Keep them away from other food products in the shopping carts. This will prevent cross-contamination on other food items.
7. Follow Safe Temperatures
Food is safe to consume when its inside temperature is high enough to kill germs. Food handlers should ensure to cook food at appropriate temperatures. This will avoid food poisoning and foodborne illnesses. Ensure to cook raw meat, poultry items, and seafood at the right temperatures. Follow recommended food safety temperatures for every type of food product. In case food is being prepared in a microwave, ensure that food is evenly cooked. Follow the right storage temperatures for each food item. Store cold foods at 41 degrees Fahrenheit and hot foods need to be 140 degrees or above. Temperature-sensitive foods should not stay in the danger zone for more than 2 hours. During this time, dangerous bacteria can grow and spread.
Appropriate cleaning techniques, sanitizing products must be available in restaurants. Restaurant owners should look for new disinfecting practices at frequent intervals. Employees should have adequate knowledge in the process of sanitization procedures and food safety. The training programs should outline standard operating procedures to clean the facility. Cleaning and sanitizing are of utmost importance for maintaining food quality. Thus restaurant owners must adhere to the norms. Follow cleaning and sanitizing routine to restrict the spread of germs. It also helps to prevent foodborne illnesses and keep the image of the restaurant intact.