In the U.S., educational/training interventions have been widely used to decrease foodborne disease in food service operations with most interventions focusing on improving worker knowledge of safe food handling. The limitation of this approach is that knowledge alone does not influence the adoption of safe food handling practices. And with the CDC estimating that 48 million people get sick from foodborne illness each year, it’s important to understand the significance of a proper sanitation program and how to best develop and execute one in any food service operation.
Understanding the risk factors and levels of cleanliness needed to prevent contamination of food and kitchen equipment is the first step when implementing a thorough food safety program. Identify the types of soils and surfaces in your establishment to determine the proper cleaning and sanitation products to use, how often cleaning must be done to achieve the desired results, and the training needed for your staff from management on down.
Create a Proper Cleaning Plan
Working with your cleaning supplier is a great way to put a highly effective sanitation plan together. A cleaning supplier can help identify any contamination risks within your facility by conducting a cleanliness audit, inspecting everything from the floors and drains, to kitchen equipment and food contact surfaces, among other areas. They can also help ensure your cleaning program is working by measuring trace ATP and surface proteins through regular testing.
Once the risks have been identified, facility managers can create a Master Cleaning Plan, outlining what should be cleaned, how it should be cleaned, when to clean, and who should do the cleaning. This plan should also include details on which cleaning products to use to remove various soil types found on the different surfaces in any food service operation, as well as training procedures and schedules for staff at every level.
Common Cleaning Guidelines
Any sanitation program should include cleaning procedures for the common, and sometimes overlooked, areas found around any commercial kitchen.
Countertops. In a commercial kitchen, countertops are at the heart of the action. Protect against food cross-contamination with regular disinfection and maintenance that can help prevent foodborne illnesses.
Cutting boards. Cutting boards need to be cleaned frequently, including before use, before changing from one food type to another and after food handling is complete. Since these surfaces tend to be scored and scratched, they can harbor food that can lead to bacterial growth.
Dishes, pots, and pans. A main ingredient to a spotless kitchen is the right dish cleaning product. Get your dishes virtually spotless and remove stubborn grease by using a dependable product you can trust.
Floor drains. Bacteria can often be found feeding on food residues in floor drains. These food sources can also attract other unwanted pests. Regular drain cleaning can help keep this in check.
New equipment. Consider the ease of cleaning when purchasing new kitchen equipment, such as ice machines. The more difficult it is to clean, the less likely it will be cleaned consistently or correctly.
The Right Products and Tools
Using the right cleaning products and tools is also imperative when it comes to achieving food safety goals. Multipurpose products can clean a broad range of soils and surfaces, making cleaning easier by reducing the number of products needed and minimizing rework. Multipurpose products also help save time by reducing the complexity of the job, making staff training easier, and simplifying inventory management.
With employee labor accounting for up to 80 percent of cleaning costs, operators can reduce the amount of time and cost to clean a restaurant by using effective cleaning products and putting efficient cleaning processes into place.
Additionally, facility managers should have procedures in place to properly clean and sanitize cleaning tools regularly since scouring pads, brushes, and mops can be sources of cross-contamination.
Importance of Cleaning and Disinfecting
To fully understand why a proper cleaning program is important, employees need to recognize the difference between cleaning and disinfecting and why each step is essential to ensure guests (and employees) stay safe and healthy in your facility.
To start, employees need to be able to identify the difference between cleaning—the removal of soil or dirt from a surface—and disinfecting—the killing or reduction of microorganisms that cause disease, odors, and spoilage—and understand that both steps of the process are necessary.
Most disinfectants do not effectively remove soil, if at all, but cleaning well allows disinfecting agents to work more effectively because the soil is removed and cannot protect the germs. Multipurpose products that clean and disinfect in a single step are the best value for operators by limiting inventory needs, reducing rework, and simplifying training.
The Value of Training
Employee education and training are the keys to success for any sanitation program. Incorrect cleaning methods can spread dirt and bacteria around instead of cleaning them, and not using cleaning products the way they’re intended can reduce or eliminate their efficacy, putting guests and staff in harm’s way. Training should be ongoing and provided to each new employee and each time there is a new piece of equipment or new cleaning supply introduced.
Properly training employees, at every level, can help eliminate these risks and give employees a clear understanding of why thorough cleaning is vital, and how to make sure their efforts meet the most rigorous of cleanliness standards. Proper training can also increase employee safety by ensuring that products are being used correctly and reducing rewash (exposure to chemicals) and miscalculation with mixing.
To achieve the highest levels of content retention, training programs should be developed with content that is highly visual, auditory, and tactile like videos that show and tell employees how to complete a task, including the opportunity to learn by doing. P&G Professional and Clemson University recently completed a study to determine the effect of a multi-phase, motivation-based educational intervention to improve the cleanliness of surfaces in a commercial kitchen. Validating that the trainees understood the content during the initial training sessions was one of the most important outcomes of the study, and this goal was achieved through use of multiple choice questions that were graded and documented in real time. Knowing they would be graded, trainees paid more attention to the content.
There are a variety of training tools that can be successful in reaching food service employees, including using Active Managerial Controls to help improve managers’ ability to train and sustain a cleaning program and individual training for food safety/compliant cleaning. On-demand tools that offer written procedures or training videos are also ideal. For example, P&G Professional’s online University site regularly monitors and records knowledge intake.
Self-Monitoring and Feedback
Implementation of routine and documented checks can help improve overall cleanliness and can be used for retraining, which is also an important step in ensuring information retention. The checks system should not be overwhelming to implement and should take no longer than 10 minutes of a manager’s time. Measures can primarily be sensory (visual, touch, and smell) with established checkpoints such as tables and chairs (not sticky and visually clean). Additionally, when issues are noted, the manger should retrain employees on proper procedures using demonstrations, as well as visual and auditory training materials and techniques. Your cleaning supplier can help develop a self-monitoring program that makes sense for your business.
An End-to-End Approach
Food safety requires an end-to-end cleaning and sanitation regimen that is continually monitored, and where constant feedback is provided to achieve the overall goals of the program. By evaluating your facility and equipment needs, with an eye toward safety and ease of cleaning, and selecting the most effective sanitizing and disinfecting products, you can have a dramatic impact on food safety, as well as productivity.
Dr. Anderson is a food safety and sanitation consultant for P&G Professional, the away-from-home division of Procter & Gamble. Dr. Pettigrew is a principal scientist at P&G, where he provides technical leadership in the Global Microbiology Organization and Systems Biology Programs. They can both be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.