Implementing A Thorough Food Safety Program

by Jeff Anderson

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 48 million Americans (or roughly 1 in 6 people) become sick from foodborne diseases every year. With this in mind, it’s important to recognize the significance of a proper sanitation program and how to best achieve one in any foodservice operation.

Implementing a thorough food safety program must start with a clear understanding of the risk factors and the level of cleanliness that is needed to prevent contamination of food, equipment and wares. To create a hygienic environment, you must first identify the various types of soil and surfaces in your establishment, so you can determine the proper cleaning/sanitizing products to use, and how often cleaning must be done to achieve the desired results.

Create a Proper Cleaning Plan
One of the best ways to put a highly effective sanitation plan together is by working with your cleaning supplier to identify the potential contamination risks within your facility. A cleaning supplier can conduct a cleanliness audit by inspecting everything from kitchen equipment, to food contact surfaces, to small wares, to floors and drains, just to name a few.

Once the risks in any cafeteria or restaurant have been identified, facility managers can create a Master Cleaning Schedule/Plan, outlining what should be cleaned, how it should be cleaned, when to clean and who should do the cleaning. This plan should let foodservice employees know which cleaning products to use for removing the various soil types found on the different surfaces in any foodservice operation.

Common Cleaning Tips
Any sanitation program should include cleaning processes for these common and sometimes overlooked areas found in 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. Disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces regularly can help prevent foodborne illnesses.

Cutting boards – Cutting boards need to be cleaned 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, it allows them to harbor food that can lead to bacterial growth.  

Food preparation sinks Clean and sanitize food prep sinks between use and throughout the day.

Greasy surfaces – Range hoods, fryers, ovens, walls and other tough greasy surfaces should be cleaned with a heavy duty degreaser to prevent a potential fire hazard. Trash and grease dumpsters should be cleaned weekly.

Baseboards Clean baseboards frequently and effectively. These areas, particularly underneath sinks, tend to be highly contaminated with food soils, and can also be moist environments that create a breeding ground for bacteria.

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.

Also, when purchasing new kitchen equipment, such as ice machines, consider ease of cleaning. The more difficult it is to clean, the more likely it won’t be cleaned consistently or correctly.

Utilize the Right Cleaning Products and Tools
Using the right cleaning products and tools is imperative when it comes to achieving food safety goals. The 2013 Cleaning Industry Insights Survey, conducted by P&G Professional, revealed that 65 percent of managers of cleaning operations in the foodservice industry felt that products that get the job done the first time are most helpful in performing their duties.

Multipurpose products from trusted manufacturers can clean a broad class 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, make staff training easier and inventory management simpler.

Typically, employee labor can account for up to 80 percent of cleaning costs. By working with a cleaning supplier, 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, cleaning tools, such as scouring pads, brushes and mops, can be sources of cross-contamination. Therefore, facility managers should have procedures in place to properly clean and sanitize tools regularly.

Training is Key to Food Safety
Education and training are truly the keys to success for any sanitation program. A good training program should provide employees with a clear understanding of why thorough cleaning is important, and how to ensure their efforts meet the most rigorous of cleanliness standards.

For food safety training, it is important to take into consideration the different learning styles of employees. There are a variety of training tools that can be successful in reaching cafeteria and restaurant employees, including training videos, in-store training, monitoring and feedback and procedural wall charts that serve as reminders on how to do things correctly. To ensure employees understand the educational materials, they should be distributed in the native language of the workers.

Management should also review personal hygiene with employees as it can have a huge impact on food safety. Employees should know when and how to wash their hands properly, as well as understand the importance of coming to work in good health to help stop the spread of germs. Employee uniforms and clothing should also be properly washed to avoid contamination.

Additionally, management should also provide periodic refresher training to reinforce good practices and procedures with foodservice workers.

Benefits of Working with Your Cleaning Supplier
Facility managers in restaurants, cafeterias and other foodservice operations should ensure they have an effective cleaning program by partnering with their cleaning supplier to create personalized solutions that optimize quality of cleaning and cost effectiveness.

By finding the right cleaning supplier that can offer education, training and support in addition to the products themselves, it can result in several benefits, including increased food safety, lower cleaning costs, increased efficiency and effectiveness and improved customer cleanliness satisfaction scores.

According to the survey, 75 percent of respondents in the foodservice sector indicated that the preferable action to improve their business’ bottom line is to “find ways to become more efficient,” rather than “raise prices” (15 percent).

Take an End-to-End Approach to Cleaning and Sanitation
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 towards 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. 

About Jeff Anderson, PhD.
Jeff Anderson is a Food Safety and Sanitation Consultant for P&G Professional, the away-from-home division of Procter & Gamble. His primary responsibilities include helping P&G Professional customers mitigate public health risk factors within their operations using science-based strategies. In this role, Jeff also provides food safety education and certification to foodservice managers throughout the U.S.