The CDC estimates that each year, roughly one in six Americans (48 million) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne illnesses. This often occurs because the human eye cannot see bacteria that can collect on food preparation, storage, and serving areas.
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Explore this issueDecember/January 2016
A food facility is any facility that prepares, stores, packages, or serves consumable food items, and can include restaurants, distribution centers, meat packaging plants, and more. These facilities have a responsibility to protect the people who consume their products. Proper sanitation prevents the spread of bacteria and reduces the chance that consumers will contract a potentially deadly or debilitating foodborne illnesses.
To Sanitize or Not?
Employees who are responsible for cleaning need to understand the difference between disinfecting and sanitizing, and how to properly sanitize surfaces. Disinfectants and sanitizers are not interchangeable and are intended for very different purposes. According to the U.S. EPA, disinfecting is intended to destroy or irreversibly inactivate all infectious fungi and bacteria, but disinfecting does not kill spores on hard or inanimate surfaces. Sanitizers are not meant to kill all microorganisms, but rather reduce the number of microorganisms to a safe level. In some cases, disinfectants can be used to inactivate viruses on surfaces, whereas sanitizers cannot be used to eliminate viruses.
Sanitizers have a lower level of antimicrobial efficacy than disinfectants, and they are safe for use on food surfaces. In general, any surface that comes in contact with food needs to be sanitized. Any sanitizer used needs to be approved for use on the surface and should not be corrosive. An exception to the use of sanitizers is if there is a concern that a surface may be contaminated with a virus, such as Norovirus. In this case, surfaces should be cleaned, rinsed, disinfected with a disinfectant that is registered with the EPA as being effective against the specific virus of concern, rinsed once more, and then sanitized as normal.