How to Know When a Food Contact Surface Is Clean
Food contact surfaces include any surface, such as a table, bench, or cutting board, that comes into contact with food at some point in the day. Failing to keep these surfaces clean can have dire consequences for the business, but it's never as simple as just wiping it down. Understanding how to get a surface truly clean and then measuring the cleanliness of that surface is what separates businesses that care from those that don't.
The Importance of a Clean Food Contact Surface
Surfaces that come into contact with food can be some of the most difficult areas to keep clean. These surfaces tend to be horizontal, so contaminates naturally stay in place; used frequently, so the possibility of contamination is always present; and contact naturally bacteria-rich items, like uncooked meats and produce. Once food touches the surface, bacteria will certainly begin to grow and can quickly grow out of control, especially in the warm, moist environment where food is normally prepared.
Once a surface becomes contaminated, it will stay that way until it is properly cleaned. As this presentation from ISSA points out, viruses like the norovirus can survive up to 56 days on a hard surface, and bacteria like E. coli can survive for up to 28 days. Considering the fact that the ingestion of less than 100 viral particles is enough to cause sickness, and that most bacterial loads of food-related surfaces easily reach into the tens of thousands, extreme care has to be taken when identifying and cleaning these surfaces.
As this report from Quality Assurance & Food Safety discusses, failing to adhere to proper protocols can lead to allergen, bacterial, and pest issues, all of which can drive customers away, especially given how likely people are to share bad experiences these days through social media and business review websites. In the most extreme cases, businesses could face sanctions from local authorities or even face a lawsuit from a sickened customer.
Choosing the Right Cleaning and Measuring Methods
Keeping a food contact surface clean begins with a rigid cleaning schedule and the right cleaning tools. Using a rag and cleaning solution to wipe down these surfaces may get them to look clean, but it leaves most of the dirt, bacteria and other contaminants behind. In fact, the added moisture of wiping these surfaces down can actually promote some bacterial growth.
Luckily, there are better cleaning technologies on the market today. One in particular called KaiFly™ by Kaivac combines microfiber, window squeegee and chemical injection technologies to rapidly remove harmful bio-pollutants, and cleans in half the time or less than traditional methods. Diluted cleaning chemical is sprayed directly onto a microfiber pad allowing for quicker and more even application on surfaces. The squeegee then finishes the job by simultaneously removing soils and drying surfaces in one swipe.
But cleaning is only half of the job. That's why professionals use a metering system, like Kaivac's SystemSURE PLUS. These meters measure adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a universal molecule found in the cells of animals, plants, bacteria, and mold. This simple, inexpensive step allows business owners to ensure their surfaces are truly clean and gives service professionals a way to quantify the value they bring to the business.
Food contact surfaces may be difficult to clean, but when it comes to keeping a clean kitchen or restaurant, they are also the most important. Using the right cleaning tools, and then taking the extra step to measure the cleaning, can make all the difference in the world.
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