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Don't take your dishwashing operation for granted

23 July 2008

If you don't consider your dishwashing operation as part of your HACCP assessment you should think again, says Neil Rush.

When was the last time you checked the chemical dosing system or the temperature dials, if fitted, on your dishwasher? I have audited dishwashers in commercial kitchens in more than 30 countries and I have found that it is common practice to take the machine for granted. And it didn't matter if it was a new machine or one that is 20 years old. Automatic dosing systems that did not dose, empty containers, wrong chemicals or inadequate temperatures were the most common faults.

You would think that plates and cutlery coming out of the machine cold and covered in food waste would alert someone to the problem. Instead you find the staff equipped with dirty, food encrusted, cloths wiping the items clean. Clean that is to the eye but likely in each case, either from the ineffective wash or the dirty cloth, to leave a bacterial coating for the next customer.

Few caterers have identified the dishwashing operation as part of their HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) assessment. It is though an important step or process in the food business operation designed to eliminate or reduce to an acceptable level the bacterial hazard. In other words it is a critical control point.

Adequate chemical dosing and appropriate temperatures will ensure control is maintained. Monitoring of each, including record keeping, will demonstrate legal compliance, but more importantly, demonstrate that you take food safety and the safety of you customers seriously.

A study in respect of allergens left on the plate or cutlery from a previous customer, which may cause a reaction by the next customer, are most effectively removed by an efficient dishwasher. Another good reason to ensure your machine is working correctly.

Work closely with your chemical supplier, equipment manufacturer and service company to ensure ongoing safety. Your chemical supplier should ensure personnel are suitably trained in the correct use and application of the chemicals and the dispensing equipment. Some cleaning companies will even incorporate a chemical usage analysis and dishwasher monitoring as part of their chemical supply contract.

If you have an old machine, monitor your maintenance costs, down time and the inefficiency of the machine, for example it may consume more power and water than a modern machine. It may be more cost effective to replace a machine that should be in a museum.

Neil Rush is managing director of Support Training and Services (01252 728 300,http://www.sts-solutions.com" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">www.sts-solutions.com*) and a member of the Foodservice Consultants Society International UK (01483 761122,www.fcsi.org.uk)*

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