In a working food preparation area there needs to be a very strict food hygiene management scheme in place. It is a legal requirement to meet the required national standards for food safety, and when the inspection happens the inspector will want to see the management process. Perhaps because of this it is easy to fall into the trap of seeing the inspection as the end game, but it is not.
The real reason for the management, the strict cleaning regime, the monitoring process and the food hygiene training is very simple. Without effective cleaning, any retail, catering or manufacturing business that handles food can potentially cause a range of dangerous and even life-threatening infections. Cleaning and disinfecting are really important on work surfaces, but also in the less easily seen areas, so here are 5 areas where troublesome bacteria can hide:
- The cleaning materials
It sounds like it should not even be possible, but the wipe cloths, sponges, towels, mops and other materials that are used to clean can themselves be a source of bacteria. A damp cloth is a holiday camp for bacteria, who will multiply there and are then wiped onto surfaces or transferred to hands and utensils. Cloths, sponges and similar items should be changed regularly or disposables used.
- The back of the sink
Sinks can suffer from what we could call ‘shiny surface syndrome’. While they may look clean on the main surface and washing areas, the edges, and particularly the grouting where the sink meets the wall, are prone to not being cleaned as well as the shiny part, or even missed entirely. These areas are regularly wet, warm and damp, so, combined with the possibility of being splashed with food waste, they can quickly become a potential bacteria problem.
- Edges and backs of chopping boards
It is easy to forget the edges and backs of a chopping board, but when you cut meat or vegetables the liquids produced will squirt and run into nooks and crannies. Make sure the edge of the board and the underside are cleaned as well as the front.
- Inside utensil holders
Drawers, magnetic knife strips, cutlery holders and so on also need regular disinfecting and methodical cleaning. There is an easy false sense of security generated here, because the items going into them are clean, but spills, splashes and stray bacterial contamination can still occur.
- Fridge seals and drawers
Refrigeration only slows the growth of bacteria, it does not stop it. Door seals, drawer runners and shelf edges in a fridge have the potential to harbour dangerous bacteria.
Regular cleaning is important, but unless it is thorough and comprehensive then ‘shiny surface syndrome’ can lead to cross-contamination and the development of a range of dangerous bacteria. Simply looking clean isn’t enough.
A perfect example of this is the current awareness campaign to stop the practice of washing chicken before cooking. The campylobacter bacterium that is commonly found on raw poultry is easily transferred from splashed water. Many of the areas in our list could easily be cross-contaminated, so they need to be a part of your cleaning management.