Equipment Cleaning, Disinfection and Dishwashers
All food businesses must be kept clean and, where necessary, be disinfected. Staff working in the establishment need to be trained appropriately and provided with a suitable, and plentiful, supply of cleaning materials and chemicals. This article focuses on cleaning, disinfection and dishwashers.
Disinfection is carried out through either chemical or thermal disinfection. Dishwasher units can often provide thermal disinfection for food equipment and make an incredibly important addition to the kitchen environment. Dishwashers work through a combination of agitation to remove food particles and detergent to remove grease and clean. Commercial dishwashing units often work on the basis of a wash cycle followed by a shorter rinse cycle using a separate hot water tank. It has been suggested that a rinse temperature of over 81oC (178oF) will achieve thermal disinfection (although lower time temperature combinations may fulfill an equivalent effect).
Without a dishwasher it is important that suitable methods are used to maintain separation and implement chemical disinfection. The heat used at the end of the dishwash cycle also tends to ensure that equipment is dried; whereas equipment washed by hand must be drained and air dried in appropriate conditions to avoid re-contamination. Some establishments operate a 3 sink system where food debris is rinsed off equipment first, followed by a detergent scrub and, lastly, a disinfectant soak. Where such methods are used is is important that suitable chemical disinfection are maintained and that care is taken to avoid contamination by splashing or hand contamination. ‘Dip strips’ that change colour are sometimes available from the manufacturers supplying disinfectants; and these are used for testing the strength of the chemical solution.
Where businesses employ a single sink unit for washing equipment they must be careful to ensure that adequate separation is maintained between washes for equipment used for raw foods and that used for ready-to-eat foods. In order to prevent cross-contamination it is good practice to sanitise the sink, taps, plugs, draining areas and surrounding areas between uses. Sanitisers (or disinfectants) used for such purposes should comply with local standards. Cleaning materials should be fresh each day or, if reusable, suitably disinfected to avoid introducing contamination (dish cloths and sponges are the ideal breeding ground for bacteria!).
Dishwashers should be regularly serviced and suitable chemicals (including rinse aids where appropriate). Occasional monitoring of rinse temperatures is recommended in order to check that dishwashing is effective. In most modern units there is usually an in-built thermometer and visual dial to display temperatures; however you may be able to use a probe thermometer easily in some units if there is not. When choosing large working equipment such as chopping boards and salad spinners you are advised to check that they fit into existing dishwashers before purchasing.
When maintained and used properly I think that dishwashers are great; they can reduce workloads, provide efficiencies and ensure that equipment is cleaned effectively. They also reduce exposure to potentially irritating detergents that can lead to dermatitis when used frequently over a period of time so are better for the health of your employees too.