An effective cleaning and hygiene regime needs to be adhered to religiously. Kathy Bowry reports on the products and services that answer an operator's prayers
Cleanliness is next to godliness, so they say, but the trouble is that cleaning and hygiene tasks are performed by human beings, not angels, meaning that the weakest part of any food-safety strategy will always be the human factor.
Katie Das, global marketing manager at Diversey Consulting, an independent consulting group within Diversey Care, says: "Effective cleaning and sanitisation will reduce the chance of cross-contamination of ‘safe food' during processing, preparation, storage and service, because soil, bacteria and other microorganisms are physically removed. However, it's important to use products and tools that will deliver superior cleaning results. These include chlorine and quaternary ammonium compounds [QACs] or quat-based sanitisers, degreasers and other surface cleaners.
"To ensure the proper concentration of chemicals and achieve the best cleaning results, restaurants should install space-saving dispensing systems that provide dilution control. These also eliminate overuse of chemicals and unnecessary waste because employees don't have to make guesses about dilution."
A spokesperson at Alliance Online, the catering equipment wholesaler, points out: "The hazard analysis and critical control points [HACCP] system is an internationally recognised approach to the correct handling of food, and must also be employed in professional kitchens to illustrate the legal cleanliness standards. You must keep written records of any preventative measures taken to avoid hazards within the kitchen, as well as conducting regular reviews of your hygiene practices."
And Stuart Yates, marketing manager at Vileda Professional, pulls no punches when he says: "From the moment the front door is opened, it's up to managers and housekeepers to ensure that customers are greeted with a spotless, clean environment. The establishment needs to be as clean as it possibly can be on a daily basis. If not, it can turn a positive reputation into a truly negative one. And with the popularity of online review sites, feedback from customers is immediate and out of the control of the establishment. Once the news is out that the standards aren't as they should be, there can be no going back."
He says that Vileda Professional will help caterers develop daily, weekly and yearly cleaning schedules by ensuring that the right products are used correctly and by developing a schedule that can be implemented with the highest levels of efficiency, first time round.
Vileda Professional PVAmicro cloth
"A product such as our PVAmicro cloth is perfect for hotels, restaurants and pubs as it is durable and does what it says it will. It is a microfibre cloth impregnated with PVA, which means that you can wipe and dry-clean in one single movement," he says.
Ringo Francis, chief executive at Zenith Hygiene, adds: "At Zenith, we are particularly proud of our bio-products, which are exempt from the new QAC regulations, allowing operators to be more time-effective in a fast-paced environment."
Heather Beattie, Jantex brand manager at Nisbets, emphasises the real benefits of conforming to Environmental Health Office (EHO) standards, which has seen the use of colour-coded cleaning equipment become integral to the easy and efficient upkeep of foodservice. "The process of designating colours to cleaning equipment significantly reduces the spread of bacteria and prevents cleaning products being mixed up," she says.
Nisbets supplies Jantex colour-coded products, which includes everything from labels and spray bottles to bins and mop buckets. "One of the most popular products is the 750ml plastic bottles with colour-coded heads, which ensure that the correct products are always used. Millilitre levels are clearly marked on the bottles and allow for the simple dilution of chemicals," says Beattie.
Rebecca Blake, senior product manager UK and Ireland at SCA Hygiene Products (owner of the Tork brand), is clear on the importance of training in cleaning and hygiene for all front and back of house teams. "We have partnered with the Oxford Brookes School of Hospitality Management to create free hospitality training packs. The four modules cover hand hygiene, surface cleaning, front-of-house table cleaning (including allergen regulations) and food on the go."
SCA has also launched a range of durable, reusable and disposable kitchen cleaning cloths which are heat resistant up to 250°C. The company claims the cloths are also 75% more absorbent compared to equivalent competitor products.
SNG Commercial has also added products to its Professional range, including handwashes, laundry powders and trigger sprays. Tracey Watson, head of commercial sales for Muvo Professional, says: "These new additions, which have tested as well as the brand leaders, provide further value to hospitality sites."
Mike Williams, director of leading food safety management consultancy STS, says it is important that food businesses are trained in cleaning with chemicals.
"All food businesses must have a sanitiser, a detergent (for multiple surfaces) and a degreaser as a minimum," he says. "Cleaning chemical requirements have been placed on food business operators by the Food Standards Agency E.coli guide, which includes the need for sanitisers to be in line with the European standard BS EN 1276 - the evaluation of bactericidal efficacy of disinfecting liquids.
"Staff must be fully briefed and trained in the correct application - especially about how long chemicals need to be left on surfaces to work. The contact time of sanitisers can vary from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, and in such a fast-paced environment it can be tempting to ignore the contact times.
"Cleaning techniques are under greater scrutiny from enforcement officers, with the two-stage cleaning process [removing visible dirt and then disinfecting] being integral to maintaining the highest standards. Food handlers should be made aware of this technique and employ it routinely rather than reserving it for detailed or deep cleaning.
"Strong chemicals such as bleach can lead to food tainting if used on surfaces, so care and attention is needed when selecting chemicals."
Maximum residual level
On 12 August this year, new legislation was passed by the EU that sets the limit on the amount of sanitiser that can be left on any surface to such a low level (0.1mg/kg), that in practice the only way to meet the requirement would be to rinse the surface after the final sanitation. It is, however, unclear how environmental health officers will enforce the new legislation.
FOG on the horizon
Howard Sedgwick, managing director at Cannon Hygiene, says food waste is a major cause of blocked drains and pipes.
"Any build-up of dirt and bacteria causes bad odours, but what's often not considered is the contribution by fats, oils and grease [FOG] in blocking pipes and creating unpleasant smells in hard-to-reach areas," he says.
"Badly affected pipes either have to be deep-cleaned regularly or, in some cases, replaced. Both these options pose significant expense and hassle. This has led to us developing our FOG solution. The compact unit automatically dispenses a measured dose of specially formulated solution directly into the pipework at regular intervals."
Mechline also has a system to address this problem in the form of GreasePak, a bio-remedial solution using enzymes to digest the FOG, which harmlessly break down into grey water that flushes away down the drain. Mechline has also released GreasePak2, a more compact, wall-mounted unit.
Plasma-screened for fresher air
David Glover is managing director of grease, odour and smoke control company Plasma Clean. The business is a spin-out from Manchester University, where the team are looking to come up with more efficient ways to control grease, odour and smoke for pubs, hotels, restaurants and fast-food outlets.
This research led to Plasma Clean's Xtract 2100 unit, which uses plasma and ultraviolet light to purify the air. Glover explains: "Lightning strikes are due to the build-up of high voltage in the clouds. When this is great enough to ionise, air molecules are broken down and form plasma, which is seen as lightning. The air smells fresher after a storm because it has been ionised."
The Xtract 2100 mimics this phenomenon in a simple cassette, which, according to the company, is the perfect solution to control odour in a commercial kitchen and is the first in a range of advanced oxidation systems to be developed using ozone and UV light.