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Cleaning procedure

Cleaning procedure.

Cleaning is essential to control the hazards of microbiological and physical contamination of foods in the retail environment. Different standards will be applicable for store rooms for packaged foods and for areas where high risk open food is being prepared, but generally cleanliness of equipment and structure throughout the premises is important in order to convey a positive image to customers and staff and a safe and efficient working environment.

The effectiveness of cleaning will depend upon the frequency (how often you clean) and the methods used.

Effective Cleaning.

For cleaning to be effective, hot water, a detergent and some physical effort is needed. A detergent is a chemical which helps to dissolve grease and remove dirt.

Even if a surface looks clean, it may still have bacteria on it. Where it is necessary to make sure that it is safe it should be disinfected. Disinfection is the reduction of bacteria to a safe level. The most common way to disinfect is to use very hot water or a suitable chemical disinfectant.

The application of heat is the most reliable and effective means of destroying bacteria although this may not always be the most practical. Temperatures in dishwashers and sterilising sinks, where articles are fully immersed for approximately 30 seconds reach over 80°C and this will effectively disinfect. Don't then dry with "dirty" towels!

Another chemical which facilitates effective cleaning is a sanitizer. This is a chemical which incorporates both a detergent and a disinfectant so is able to clean, by dissolving grease and dirt, and disinfect, by reducing bacteria to a safe level. This chemical combines two stages of cleaning but do not try to combine two chemicals into one yourself. Sanitizers are produced by all of the leading chemical manufacturers.

It is important that any cleaning operation does not in itself cause further problems. If not removed themselves, cleaning or disinfecting solutions and cleaning equipment can contaminate foods. Any open foods in the vicinity of the area to be cleaned should be removed or if this is not practicable, securely covered with impervious material.

What to Disinfect?

The simple rule to remember is that: all food contact and hand contact surfaces can be covered in bacteria which need to be restricted to a safe level to avoid food poisoning, food spoilage and cross-contamination.

As bacteria are not mobile and need to be physically carried onto food, the disinfection of non-food contact surfaces such as floors and walls, is rarely needed and a detergent would suffice.

Disinfection, or alternatively the use of a sanitizer should normally therefore be restricted to:

  • all direct food contact surfaces, including work tops and equipment
  • hand contact surfaces such as doors
  • cleaning materials and equipment including cloths, bowls and brushes

Disinfection Frequency

In most operations contamination by bacteria takes time to build up to a significant level and under normal circumstances therefore disinfection can correspond with cleaning intervals dictated by visual soiling or work cycles. However, additional disinfection will be needed in practices involving the production and handling of high risk foods, ie. delicatessen counters and also where raw foods, such as raw meats could contaminate work surfaces and equipment and so cross contaminate cooked products, e.g. butchery areas.

Frequency of Cleaning

The effectiveness of cleaning will depend upon the frequency and the methods used. "Clean as you go" is a policy that will help ensure that things do not become so dirty during the working day that thorough cleaning ultimately becomes very difficult and labour intensive. Clean as you go involves keeping work surfaces and areas uncluttered, frequently removing waste and rubbish, together with any unwanted tools or equipment.

It also involves the regular wiping down with a disinfectant (or sanitizer) to restrict bacteria to a safe level in all work areas before, during and after food preparation/handling takes place.

This approach to cleaning is best practice and other methods that achieve the required standard of cleanliness are acceptable.

Legal requirement

Chapter I 1
Food premises must be kept clean and maintained in good repair and condition.
Chapter V 1
All articles, fittings and equipment with which food comes into contact shall be kept clean

Guide to compliance

The degree of cleanliness required depends both upon the use of the premises and also the nature of the food being dealt with.

Reception areas, store rooms, chillers and other parts of the premises where open food is not kept, must be free from accumulated dirt and debris that may, for example, encourage pests.

Floors must be regularly swept/ vacuumed or washed as appropriate.
In food preparation areas or at service counters, surfaces which may come into contact with food must be visibly clean of dirt, grease and food debris before work commences.
Other parts of the preparation area such as high wall surfaces and ventilation ducts must be cleaned periodically such that dirt is not allowed to accumulate to levels where contamination of food may occur.

Food contact surfaces, equipment etc. must be kept clean and be thoroughly cleaned at the end of each shift or day.

In addition to cleaning, open food contact surfaces, equipment and utensils must be disinfected periodically to prevent build up of unseen bacteria.

Proprietors of businesses must ensure that the type and frequency of cleaning of the premises, equipment etc. is understood and followed. Written cleaning schedules are not mandatory.