Foodborne illnesses can spread in many different ways. One common culprit is cross-contamination from improperly cleaned and sanitized food-contact surfaces. According to one study, 57% of full-service restaurants and 39% of fast-food establishments failed to clean and sanitize at every appropriate time.
Cleaning and sanitizing might sound like the same thing, but they actually serve two different purposes. However, they go together — like two sides of the same coin.
Cleaning is where you scrape or rinse off food, dirt, and other visible contamination into a trash can or garbage disposal. It also includes scrubbing with clean water and dish soap. Using soap is important. It sticks to remaining pieces of food and dirt and loosens them, allowing the water to wash them away.
Sanitizing is done by immersing dishes in a chemical solution or hot water. The water should be at least 171°F if you’re using a three-compartment sink. If you’re using a stationary rack, single-temperature dishwasher, the final sanitizing rinse should be at least 165°F. Other dishwashers should have a final sanitizing rinse of 180°F. Sanitizing reduces the number of bacteria by at least 99.999% on hard surfaces.
The FDA has approved three sanitizing chemicals for dishes and equipment: chlorine, iodine, and quaternary ammonium. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label to mix the chemical sanitizing solution, then test it to make sure it’s at the proper concentration. Always follow the precautions on the safety data sheet (SDS) when using chemicals! Once you’ve mixed the solution, you also need to make sure the dishes soak in it for the entire contact time listed on the label.
For more information, check out our stand-up training about cleaning and sanitizing.
— Jessica Pettit
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