Whatever the location, industry, soiling type or circumstances, cleaning and disinfection comprises six basic stages:
In the absence of visible soiling, the pre-clean may be omitted. The main clean and disinfection can take place in combination using specific chemicals known as sanitisers. (This becomes a three-stage process, i.e. main clean/sanitise, rinse and dry. Where there is no risk of taint the rinse may be unnecessary.) Drying can either be natural, as in air drying, or physical, using disposable paper towels, hot air or a clean dry cloth. Cleaning and disinfection solutions should be changed regularly to ensure the chemicals are working effectively and recontamination of surfaces and equipment does not occur. Cleaning equipment used for raw food areas should not come into contact with that used for ready-to-eat foods and all equipment should be cleaned and disinfected prior to storage.
Manual dishwashing is only recommended for washing-up in catering premises, public houses and retail outlets selling high-risk foods, when suitable dishwashing machines are not available. It also applies to food-processing, packing and distribution plants where small items are handwashed. Thermal disinfection is most effective if double sinks are used but a suitable chemical disinfectant, such as hypochlorite in a tablet form may be used, to minimise condensation problems and health and safety risks. However, the rinse water should still be hot enough to allow air drying. The full, six-stage procedure should always be followed:
A rinse aid may be added to the rinse water to promote smear-free drying. Items should then be removed and stacked in a clean, protected area ready for re-use. Containers and pans should be stored inverted to minimise the risk of contamination.
Mechanical dishwashing is preferable to, and often more economic than, manual washing, provided the machine is used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Machines, in addition to cleaning, are also a highly efficient means of disinfecting small items of equipment and should be used for articles such as the removable parts of slicing machines, polypropylene chopping boards and other items which come into contact with high-risk foods, provided that no damage to the item will result. The sequence is as follows:
As a rule-of-thumb guide to the efficiency of a machine, if items coming out are too hot to handle and dry rapidly to a clean, smear-free finish, then the machine is operating correctly. Better hygiene results are usually obtained from mechanical washers compared to manual washing because:
To get the best results mechanical washers, such as dishwashers, should be well maintained and cleaned regularly. Food debris should be rinsed off before loading and the machine must be packed correctly and not overloaded.
CIP (Clean-in-Place) is a method of cleaning the interior surfaces of pipes, vessels, and processing equipment without disassembly. CIP has replaced manual cleaning in industries that require frequent internal cleaning of their processes. Industries that require high levels of hygiene include dairy, beverage, brewing and many food processors. The benefits to industries that use CIP include:
To ensure the effectiveness of CIP, equipment must be carefully designed. For example, there must be no inaccessible crevices and pockets in pipework that could trap debris and bacteria. The process involves passing non-foaming detergents and disinfectants through processing equipment. The combined effects of solution turbulence, chemical energy and heat remove solid debris and micro-organisms from food processing equipment.
Cleaning schedules or scheduled cleaning procedures are essential to ensure effective cleaning, and will assist a due-diligence defence. They must be clearly and concisely written, without ambiguity, to ensure that instructions to staff are easy to follow and result in the objective of the cleaning schedule being achieved throughout all areas of the food business premises.
Written schedules should specify:
Supervisors should ensure that, after each cleaning session, all items specified in the schedule have been cleaned satisfactorily and any equipment that has been dismantled is safe to use.
Clean as you go
Items like knives and food preparation surfaces are likely to be contaminated with micro-organisms. These items should be cleaned and disinfected throughout the work period. Staff should implement a ‘clean-as-you-go’ policy by clearing away and cleaning up as they work, and immediately after completing a task.
Effective planning, supervision and organisation is required to ensure coordinated and satisfactory cleaning. Supervisors must ensure that there are always sufficient cleaning materials and suitable facilities available and staff are given clear instructions and/or training on cleaning and using cleaning equipment. It is essential that staff fully understand instructions and procedures with regards to cleaning and disinfection, in particular with regards to dilution, application methods and contact time. Providing measuring containers and identifying ‘fill’ levels on buckets and other vessels will assist staff to ensure the effectiveness of procedures. The supervisor should check that staff clean and correctly store cleaning equipment after use. Equipment should be checked for damage and items like worn brushes, for example, should be replaced. Staff can be motivated to clean if supervisors lead by example, demonstrate the correct way to clean and disinfect and monitor cleaning activities. Praise should be given for high standards and disciplinary action may be appropriate for unsatisfactory cleaning. Competency testing may be used to test knowledge and satisfactory implementation. Posters and notices may also be useful to encourage cleaning.
Supervisors will need to monitor the standard of cleaning by careful observation/inspection and occasionally using swabbing techniques such as ATP (adenosine triphosphate) or Vericleen which indicate the presence of food, dirt or bacteria in a few minutes and microbiological swabbing which provides results in several days. Cleaning schedules should also be checked to ensure they are being signed by the cleaner as they may be required for a due-diligence defence.
Regular auditing of the cleanliness of premises and equipment, including checking that cleaning schedules have been signed off by the supervisor will be necessary to verify that cleaning is effective. Monitoring the amount of cleaning chemicals used each week may also indicate the effectiveness of cleaning. Too little spent on chemicals indicates ineffective cleaning and too much may indicate wastage.
If the standards of cleaning are unsatisfactory the supervisor may need to:
Food businesses usually employ an external contractor for some tasks that they cannot undertake effectively themselves. These tasks may include specialist cleaning of extractor systems and drains, waste collection and disposal. Large catering, manufacturing and retail businesses often contract out all their cleaning requirements. The advantages of using an outside contractor for cleaning include:
There are disadvantages of employing an external cleaning contractor, as opposed to keeping cleaning in-house:
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