Two of the most critical aspects of food protection are frequent, thorough handwashing and clean and sanitary surfaces. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified proper handwashing and clean and sanitary surfaces as two of the five most important risk factors related to food protection. And, oftentimes, the vast majority of foodborne illness investigations that are conducted could have been prevented by proper handwashing. So, as a sanitarian, what do I look for once I walk into a facility?
The Importance of Handwashing and Sanitizing Surfaces
Upon entering a facility, sanitarians highlight the importance of hand hygiene by washing their hands before touching any working surface or utensils. This allows for two things to happen: it demonstrates proper behavior for the food operator, and also the sanitarian can verify that the facility has handwashing supplies and warm water readily available.
The chemical used to sanitize surfaces must be mixed to the appropriate concentration. A sanitarian will ask the operator to produce a test kit and demonstrate procedures.
We recommend that a morning checklist is created to prompt employees to stock both handwashing and utensil-washing supplies. Either a porter or cleaning person should regulate inventory and establish a morning routine.
It is also important to utilize a sanitizer log and test kit to record concentration levels. Weak sanitizer solutions compromise food safety because they cannot effectively kill pathogens. During high-traffic times, the sanitizer may need to be changed frequently. At a minimum, the sanitizer should be changed every four hours. You may also select a ready-to-use product that does not require mixing.
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