Commercial Kitchen Sanitation
Every year, foodborne illness sickens 48 million Americans. Of those, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die – staggering numbers from a modern country with laws in place to ensure safe food practices. Further, more than 80 percent of outbreaks were a result of food that was handled in commercial kitchens.1 To help you keep your customers safe, and protect your business from litigation and low health scores, we've assembled a few commercial kitchen cleaning tips.
- Purchase NSF-certified equipment. NSF International is an organization that creates commercial food equipment standards2 for manufacturers to follow, then certifies products to make it easy for you to see at a glance that you're getting a product you can clean easily. These items usually have fewer corners and seams, reducing the number of places food can build up and allow bacteria to grow, and often also have anti-microbial agents built into the equipment. Having NSF-certified products can also show your health inspector that you're serious about your commercial kitchen's sanitation.
- Sanitize smaller items in a commercial warewasher. Dishes, cookware, bakeware, utensils, and many removable parts of equipment can be cleaned in a warewasher, which will use either chemical or high-temperature sanitization to eliminate bacteria. If you are using a high-temperature dishwasher that does not have a built-in thermometer display, you should occasionally check the maximum temperature with a waterproof probe thermometer or temperature test strips to ensure the proper temperatures are being reached to kill bacteria.
- Apply HACCP principles in food receiving, storage, prep, and cooking to prevent contamination. These standards make use of food thermometers to ensure products are stored at and cooked to safe temperatures, promoting commercial kitchen sanitation by stopping bacterial growth at the source.
- Keep food at safe temperatures while serving. Hot bars, countertop buffet warmers, heat lamps, and heated holding cabinets are all options for hot food holding, while cold food bars and drop-in food wells can help keep cold food below 41 degrees Fahrenheit. If you will be serving food in a buffet line, food shields, also known as sneeze guards, keep food sanitary by preventing germs and debris from falling into open food pans.
- Create a cleaning regimen. Whether you craft an overall checklist, assign each employee with cleaning his or her own station, or hire an employee specifically for cleaning, creating a firm cleaning schedule means there will never be any doubt of when an item was last cleaned and sanitized. Streamlining the act of cleaning a commercial kitchen helps keep labor costs down and ensure nothing gets missed during cleaning.
- Follow manufacturers' directions for both equipment and cleaning solutions. Each piece of equipment should come with the manufacturer's recommendations on how and how often to clean it, and your local health codes may also have regulations on timing efforts to clean certain surfaces. Employees should be trained to read all the directions on each cleaning and sanitizing product to ensure the solutions are being used correctly. Pay special attention when sanitizing products say to let the surface air dry – this is often to ensure the sanitizing solution is in contact with the surface for long enough to kill bacteria.
- Train employees in when and how to wash their hands. Hand sinks are required in the kitchen, food prep areas, and restrooms of your building. You may also consider installing these sinks near employee entrances and in break rooms, to make washing up at the start of the day and after breaks more convenient. In most locations, signs are required in restrooms to remind employees to wash their hands before returning to work. Employees should also be trained to wash their hands before beginning any food prep, and after handling money or touching their face or hair.
- Manage illness. If an employee is exhibiting symptoms of illness such as vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, or sore throat with fever, or has an infected wound, he or she should either be sent home or, in some cases of mild illness, reassigned to a position that does not include contact with food. Management should ensure all employees know to report any of these symptoms to help prevent foodborne illness.3 While this may not be as obvious a part of kitchen sanitation as wiping down a counter with bleach, stopping the spread of germs at the source helps improve the cleanliness of any environment.