Let's Talk Cleaning and Sanitizing by Barry Parsons

Clean and Sanitize
They sound like basic tasks but according to the FDA, sanitation is the number one violation across the country. The CDC lists contaminated utensils and equipment as one of the top five risk factors contributing to foodborne illness. Anyone who has been in the business for years knows this, but do you understand it? The food business is messy. Remnants of food particles, blood, other fluids, hair, insects, cross-contamination possibilities, cross-contact opportunities, environmental exposures to air, dust, and moisture are just some of the issues we deal with daily. It is impossible to cover everything about cleaning and sanitizing, but let’s talk about some of the basics in retail.
Personal Cleanliness - When is the last time you taught someone how to wash their hands correctly? The response is that very few have ever taught new workers. The FDA Food Code states employees are to vigorously scrub their hands for 10-15 seconds with a total wash time of at least 20 seconds. Hand antiseptic (sanitizer) can be used after handwashing, but never in the place of.
Cleanability- A good blanket statement is that everything needs to be easily cleanable in your facility. A simple definition is the removal of visible dirt and debris. One common inspection issue are cutting boards. They tend to have deep cuts and discoloration. A simple fix is a board scraper to plane the surface in order to remove the cuts. It extends the life of your cutting board thus saving you money. It also achieves 4-202.11 (A)(2) in that food contact surfaces are “free of breaks, open seams, cracks, chips, inclusions, pits, and similar imperfections”, and reduces potential cross-contamination.
Sanitizing - A simple definition is reducing microorganisms to a safe level. For retail, sanitizing can be achieved by heat sanitizing in a dishwasher or three-compartment sink. Personally, I would not recommend the three-compartment sink method due to the inherent risk of burns as a result of the 171°F water). Sanitizing can also be effectively achieved by the use of one of the three chemicals - iodine, chlorine, and quaternary ammonium compound solution (quats). Do not forget to look at section 4-501.114 of the Food Code. You must know the water ph and temperature to maximize the effectiveness of the chlorine solution. The Person-in-Charge (PIC) must demonstrate that the sanitizer is at the proper concentration in order to sanitize to at least a 5-log kill. Are you using the correct, accurate test strip for your quats? There are QAC, QT-10, and QT-40 test strips, but they are not the same and should not to be used interchangeably. In my experience, many chemical representatives do not know the difference. During inspections, we often find that the incorrect test strip is being used. Also, the testing is not being performed according to the manufacturer of the test strips. The combination of these two factors provides an inaccurate test result.
Three-compartment sink - Sanitizing cannot occur properly unless proper cleaning is performed first! The proteins, oils, and food debris reduce the effectiveness of the sanitizer. The five-step cleaning and sanitizing process in a three-compartment sink are required to achieve the best results. Change the dish solution when the water is dirty and the bubbles are gone and use water that is at least 110°F. Thoroughly rinse the dishes with 110°F water to remove any loose food particles and the detergent solution so as not to reduce the sanitizers effectiveness. Finally, ensure the wares air dry to prevent wet nesting. Two-thirds of the sanitizers effectiveness occurs during drying.
Finally, I want to correct a misconception. Allergens are not removed by sanitizing. Allergens are a chemical hazard and not a biological hazard. Allergens are proteins found in food. Cleaning with hot water and detergent removes the protein residue on surfaces such as tables, cutting boards, knives, condiment surfaces, and plastic shielded menus. Sanitizing reduces microorganisms to a safe level, but is not effective for removing allergens.
Happy Cleaning and Sanitizing!
This blog is not intended to be a substitute for the user's judgement and common sense. Any errors are unintentional.  

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