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The Standards of Clean

HACCP International is an organization that operates an assessment and certification scheme for equipment and materials used by the industry. Certification is a means of assuring that the equipment and materials can be used by the food industry without risk to the food safety controls that they have implemented as part of their HACCP-based food safety management system.

But how do restaurants and hotels know if they’re providing the cleanest clean possible? What common pitfalls and dangers in the food industry are the biggest challenges? We sat down with Richard Mallett, Managing Director of the European division of HACCP International, to discuss trends and warning signs of which everyone in the industry should be aware.

The trend is building

In the food industry, safety and sustainability are top of mind. Not only for consumers, but along the entire supply chain. Creating the cleanest, most healthy environment for food preparation is a must. But how can restaurants and hotels ensure that when they clean, they’re not only removing the dirt they see, but the bacteria they don’t see?

The enemies within

Since 2005, very little has changed in Europe with regard to food-borne illnesses. More often than not, just two microbes cause the majority of sicknesses: a bacterium called Campylobacter and a virus called Norovirus. In fewer cases – far less frequent but much more dangerous – food-borne illness can be caused by some strains of E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes.

All of these microbes have one thing in common: they can cause illness even when as few as 10 -100 virus particles or bacterial cells are present. That means that food preparation surfaces can’t just be “clean to the eye” – they must be clean of dangerous levels of micro-organisms. Otherwise, restaurants and hotels run the risk of endangering the health of their customers and employees.

Recognizing the risk

Not surprisingly, the solution lies in education. Because we know what microbes we’re fighting, we also know how to defeat them. So, why do new cases of food-borne illness pop up, year after year?

  • Profit before safety: Sometimes, the problem lies with management. Although senior managers may be aware of the risks these bacteria and viruses form, they sometimes put profit ahead of safety. The choice to use inferior (cheaper) cleaning products or limit the amount of cleaning solutions used in a certain amount of time increase the chances of bacteria and viruses surviving on a surface and then going on to cross contaminate food. In fact profit has been proven to go hand-in-hand with good food safety practices – clean food and happy customers drive sales and profit.
  • Improper training: While restaurant owners may know about the importance of proper cleaning, they may not spend enough time and effort training their staff. Or, they may not be sufficiently qualified to train staff on proper cleaning methods. Cost-cutting efforts may also play a role in insufficient training.
  • Time crunch: In a busy, hectic industrial kitchen, sufficient time may not be given to effective cleaning techniques. Many kitchens believe that intermittent ‘deep cleans’ can make up for hasty cleaning sessions during busy times. But nothing is further from the truth.

Advice from the experts

So what does the HACCP International recommend? It’s quite simple. Owners and managers of industrial kitchens must be fully aware of – and compliant with – the food safety standards demanded by food safety legislation in the kitchen. No matter what the cost or time constraints may be, there is no excuse for the use of inferior products or shortcuts in cleaning. After all, the few cents saved in an insufficient cleaning job is not worth the health – and life – of a customer who trusts you. Nor indeed is it worth the brand damage that would occur from a food poisoning incident.

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