Critical Sanitation Issues in Food Service

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series. Part two, which will appear in our December/January issue, will focus on the targets for pathogen and spoilage microbes in the food contact zones.

Since the first model was implemented back in 1993, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Code has continued to evolve. Each version of the Food Code has developed a more refined and seamless fabric of programs based on good manufacturing practices (GMP) and hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) that are consistent with GMP regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations.

The FDA estimates that 96% of states have adopted a version of the Food Code.1 The current version, enacted in 2005, has been adopted by nine states/territories. The 2005 version is now being incorporated into the highly successful ServSafe program, conducted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA). The Conference for Food Protection is the basis for Food Code review, with the NRA and all private and public stakeholders fully engaged in the code process.

The Food Code encompasses all the key segments of food service and food retail operations, from management and personnel through compliance and enforcement. Using the Food Code as a foundation, this article will address critical sanitation issues commonly found in food service operations.

Keep Microbes Far from Targets

Many food safety experts and knowledgeable sanitarians view prerequisite program controls as a multi-barrier system akin to a dartboard or archery board. Zone one—the bull’s eye—is the food contact zone. All hygiene control programs must prevent pathogens and spoilage microbes from compromising this critical zone.

The sound, proactive approach, however, is to establish and maintain microbial control outward from zone two, the indirect food contact areas, to zone three, the immediate environmental zones around the food processing area, to zone four, the general environs of the food plant. The objective of any good sanitation program is not only to focus on the bull’s eye, but also to assiduously control zones four and three, thereby minimizing the risk for zones two and one.

This two-part article will examine how a food service establishment should control the outer ranges of the target. Part one will examine the key environmental sanitation issues, including what the 2005 Food Code prescribes for zones three and four. Part two will focus on the targets for pathogen and spoilage microbes in the food contact zones.

Food Service Environmental Sanitation Issues

One can approach food service environmental sanitation issues from two perspectives: first, when designing a new food service facility to facilitate proper hygiene and sanitation, and second, when determining how to reconfigure/retrofit a facility to create a hygienic design that promotes sanitation efficiencies. Whatever your perspective, key regions or components must have certain materials and standards.

The first of these is product and worker flow design. Many environmental sanitation issues stem from inadequate or poor facility flow, whether it’s a large food plant or a basic kitchen. An example of a properly designed food service plant in the Maui Medical Center, in Kahulue, Hawaii.

At this facility, the serving area is segregated from the main kitchen to avoid cross contamination issues during processing and sanitation. In addition, the dish/tray washing area is separated from the main prep area and the serving area.

The butcher room, where raw meat-produce products are processed, is also isolated from the main kitchen. Finally, all critical refrigerators, freezers, and dry good storage are properly segregated. All areas flow into the processing kitchen, however. This type of workflow also isolates the sanitation of these areas, preventing cross contamination of raw areas from cook zones.

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