It’s common knowledge in the foodservice industry that cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, along with proper hand hygiene practices, is one of the best ways to prevent cross-contamination of germs in restaurants. But just because things look clean doesn’t mean they are – kitchen equipment, storage areas, countertops and even cutting boards can hide germs and food soils even after they’ve been cleaned and sanitized. And that’s bad news for your food safety program.
All restaurants are required to have hard surface cleaning and sanitizing programs in place, and employees are required to wash their hands at specified times throughout their shift, but even when everything seems to be up to par, unseen errors or lapses in protocols can undermine those best practices – which makes them that much more important.
For example, you may think your reusable towel and sanitizing solution is working well and keeping surfaces clean and germ-free for your guests, but research shows when excess food soils build up on the rag and in the sanitizing solution, it is possible for germs to survive and be passed on to other areas when the towel is used again. Combined with tables, napkin dispensers and condiment holders (along with all high-touch surfaces being commonly cleaned with reusable towels) being the dirtiest surfaces in a restaurant, you now have a recipe for cross contamination.
Even good food safety practices can have adverse effects. We’ve all heard the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished”, and here’s a perfect example: Washing raw produce can splash contaminated rinse water onto counters or floors and go unnoticed, creating a potentially hazardous situation. The same goes for rinsing dishes and other food prep equipment – which is why regular cleaning and sanitizing of hard surfaces is so critical.
So what’s the secret to preventing cross-contamination? It may be anti-climactic, but there isn’t one. Maintaining high cleanliness standards takes work and attention to detail. There’s a reason personal hygiene, proper handwashing, and cleaning & sanitizing surfaces occupy 3 of the top 5 cross-contamination prevention methods, according to the National Restaurant Association*. They matter. It may seem like you’re doing everything right, but using the proper methods to keep your restaurant clean helps keep guests safe from the spread of foodborne illness.