Edwin Chadwick – a man to whom much is owed!

In Britain today, we enjoy a high standard of living compared to times past.  Our hygiene regulations are strict, meaning cases of food borne illness and diseases are relatively rare, and our sanitation systems are extremely efficient and well controlled.  However, it wasn’t always like this and that is down to a few individuals in history who campaigned tirelessly for social reform.

Edwin Chadwick was one of those tireless campaigners.  He was born near Manchester in 1800 and lived in the North until moving to London in 1810.  It was a time in the history of this nation when industry and manufacturing were booming and jobs for factory workers were plentiful.   People would move in droves to towns where factories were hiring and business owners would provide housing for their employees but, it was housing that was cheap and which had very poor or no sanitation.  It was also a time when there were serious health epidemics, some of the most notable being the first great cholera epidemic in 1830-31 and typhoid epidemics in big cities in 1837 and 1838.

During this time, Edwin Chadwick had studied the law and had worked his way by merit into an advisory role within government.  He had inherited his father’s journalistic skills and was highly regarded as a researcher and writer.  Chadwick was commissioned to assist with the enquiry into the Poor Laws in 1832 and it was through his research that he started to uncover the link between poor sanitation and low life expectancy.

In 1842, he published what was arguably the most important work of his career, The Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population in Great Britain.   This report showed, through careful research and substantiated examples, that there was a direct correlation between the poor living conditions and sanitation of the working population and their short life expectancy and susceptibility to disease.

Chadwick had proved something that was undeniable and started something that was unstoppable.  His report led the way for the Public Health Act of 1948 and set off a shift in thinking that the government had a responsibility in ensuring suitable sanitation systems for all.  He was appointed as Commissioner for the Board of Health which set out to start implementing some of the recommendations of Chadwick’s report.

This was just the beginning of understanding how disease spread and the need for effective sanitation.  Chadwick himself subscribed to the miasma theory, which supposed that disease was spread through bad smells in the air.  At the time, this was widely believed to be the cause, although the germ theory quickly became the accepted position in the mid-1800s as understanding increased.  The measures Chadwick proposed and applied, although he held to the miasma theory, undoubtedly contributed to the improvement of living conditions.  Removing the bad smells would often mean that the bacteria, the actual cause of disease, were also removed, thus providing a cleaner and more sanitised living environment.

Chadwick had some unpopular political views on public health and centralised administration and, ultimately, this led to him being removed from the Board of Public Health but he continued to campaign for cleaner living conditions and for separate pipes for clean water and sewage removal in every household.  His conviction was so strong that he even left £47,000 in his will for the purpose of further advances in sanitation and education of the population in such matters.

Chadwick always held to the miasma theory and was viewed by some as difficult and arrogant but his place in history is secure and it seems the tide of negative opinion towards him changed as he was awarded a knighthood in 1889 for his services to public health, just one year before he died.

Whether it is true that he was arrogant or difficult, he is truly a man to whom much is owed.  His research and unstinting belief in the importance of improving sanitation is what first set us on the road to the high standard of living conditions we currently enjoy.  The degree of knowledge about the spread of disease and contamination that we now know is due in no small part to this man, Edwin Chadwick, who started a revolution in public health and understanding that continues to this day.

Make sure your Summer al fresco celebration doesn’t end inside…with food poisoning!

Spring has had its day and we’ve passed the first official day of summer, the solstice of 21st June, and with that milestone comes the season for al fresco eating, so beloved by the British people. Picnic baskets will have been dusted off and plastic plates and mugs dug out from the back of the cupboard.

It is worth mentioning that cases of food poisoning in the UK rise significantly over the summer months! Most people love a good picnic but, away from our fridges and freezers and clean running water, it’s wise to be extra mindful of food safety risks and helpful to have some guidelines to follow to get the most out of your al fresco dining experience.

When you’re getting ready – the first steps:

• When preparing the food at home, make sure usual hygiene procedures are followed; wash your hands, keep cooked and raw meat separate to avoid cross contamination and pack the food up separately in airtight containers or keep individual items covered in foil or clingfilm

• If it’s the first time you’re venturing out this summer, give all those implements and containers that have been lurking in the dark corners of your cupboards a thorough clean

When you’re ready to pack up and go:

• Use a cool bag for cold items: a good cool bag lined with ice blocks or frozen gel packs will keep your food cool for a good 2-3 hours. Keeping the food at a low temperature, similar to that of your fridge at home (5°C), will prevent any bacteria from multiplying. It’s best to leave packing the cool bag until just before leaving home so that the food is stored straight from the fridge and is as cold as possible.

• Like you would when stacking your fridge at home, keep any raw meat that you might intend to cook completely separate from other food and place it at the bottom of the cool bag so that there is no danger of any leakage onto other foods.

• Make sure all items are separately contained or wrapped so that you avoid cross contamination.

• If you’re really pushing the boat out and taking hot food, the safest way to transport it is in a thermos box to ensure it retains its temperature. Hot food should be held above 63°C.

• Keep the cool bag in the coolest place possible when in transit, somewhere shady away from the glare of the sun.

When you’re ready to serve up and eat:

• Clean or wash your hands. If there’s a facility for washing, great, but if not, take some anti-bacterial gel with you to ensure you rid your hands of any bacteria you might have picked up running your hands through long grass or making sandcastles.

• Only serve up what you’re intending to eat. Keep the rest in the cool bag until you’re ready for it. In hot weather, food should not be left out for more than a maximum of one hour.

• Keep raw foods and cooked/ready to eat foods strictly separate.

• Make sure you cook any raw meat thoroughly, until the juices run clear and there is no pink left. Use a clean knife to cut into the meat to check the colour and juices if you need to.

• Keep any cooking utensils or implements used in preparing food separate and wrapped up to prevent any bugs or animals touching them and contaminating them.

• Avoid putting food onto unclean surfaces such as the ground, picnic tables etc. Bring plates or even a tablecloth from home if you can.

When you’re ready to come home:

• If the ice packs in the cool bag are still cold and there is leftover food, it should be fine to take home, refrigerate and re-use, – provided it has not been left out but the safest rule is; if in doubt, chuck it out!

Most of all, enjoy it while it lasts and make the most of the sunshine whenever you can because, in this country, you never know when you’ll see it again!

What is Clostridium Botulinum?

Clostridium Botulinum

For those of us born before the technological age, our childhoods would probably have involved playing outside for much of the time, making our own entertainment.  For many, playing in the mud and dirt was a great pastime.  You might be one of those that made mud pies and got absolutely filthy, to the despair of your parents.  Some children actually proceeded to tuck into said mud pies but have turned out just fine.  Little did we know, however, that something pretty sinister was lurking in the very same soil from which we were making our mud pies.

Sources, Causes and Symptoms

Clostridium botulinum is bacteria which is present in untreated water, soil and dust all over the world and can also be found on a number of food items, for example, anything which has been grown in soil may have had contact with the bacteria.  The bacteria in its natural state is not harmful but, as an ‘obligate anaerobe’, if it is deprived of oxygen, its spores start to produce toxins which can, in very rare cases, be fatal.  It is no exaggeration to say that it is probably the most dangerous of food borne illnesses that can be contracted.  The toxins attack the nervous system, disabling the neurotransmitters which carry instructions from the brain to our muscles, thus causing paralysis.  Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, double vision, drooping eyelids and paralysis amongst others.  It can be treated with antitoxins which prevent the toxins from travelling round the body so an immediate visit to the doctor or hospital is absolutely imperative.

Foodborne botulism is generally contracted from canned foods which have not been processed correctly at source.  In food in canned form, the bacteria are deprived of oxygen and toxins develop so that, when consumed, the illness strikes.  In the UK, hygiene regulations are very strict so food being processed incorrectly is a real rarity.  Canned food is subject to intense heating and sterilisation processes which should eradicate any risk.

Clostridium Botulinum in Children

Infant botulism is the most frequent form of the illness and occurs mostly in babies under the age of 6 months, although it tends to occur through botulinum spores releasing the toxins once ingested, rather than pre-developed toxins in foods.  At this age, their bodies have not yet developed to deal with botulinum in bacteria form, as adults’ immune systems have.  For adults, it is the pre-developed toxins that pose the risk.

Controls

It should be noted that cases of botulism are very scarce but there are measures you can take to ensure avoiding contact with these potentially deadly toxins.  Never eat food from a can which is bulging or leaking, or which shoots out unnaturally when being opened, as it could be contaminated.  Heat food which comes from cans properly.  The World Health Organisation states that, ‘the toxin produced by bacteria growing out of the spores under anaerobic conditions is destroyed by boiling (for example, at internal temperature greater than 85 °C for 5 minutes or longer)’.  Never give honey to children under 1 year old as this is a common cause of infant botulism.  If you are going to can food at home, make sure you find out how to do it properly so that you can follow the strictest hygiene procedures.  Always put leftover and cooked food in the refrigerator, as low temperatures help to prevent the formation of toxins.  Decant any leftovers from cans into other containers and refrigerate.  Simple measures which are easy to follow and which could make all the difference.

Botox

On a final note, it’s not all bad news.  The botulinum bacteria is the main ingredient used in botox, where the skin is effectively ‘paralysed’ to reduce the appearance of wrinkles so, for those who seek the elixir of youth, the botulinum bacteria is one of the finds of the modern age!

 

The Training of Food Handlers

The Training of Food Handlers

By law, those responsible for running a food business must ensure that food handlers receive food safety training which is ‘commensurate’ to their level of responsibility. In other words, the level of training that each food handler receives should be appropriate for their individual job role and work activities. This basically means that food business operators are required to evaluate the risks associated with the different job functions their food handling staff perform and then provide them with the appropriate food safety training.

Failure by food business owners to follow high standards of food safety can easily cause food to become defiled or contaminated, resulting in potentially fatal consequences for the business’ customers and financial disaster for the business’ owner.

The Benefits for Employers

Whilst the law does not demand that all employees go through a formal or an accredited food safety training programme, it would be very inadvisable to not do so. Based on our experience and dialogue with food business operators from a wide range of sizes and sectors within the food industry, the message is that these recognised courses are inclined to be more rigorous and the outcome in most cases tends to be a lot better; promoting a greater level of work engagement from staff and an increased commitment to their job requirements and areas of responsibility.
Employers should not see training as an optional extra or just as something to ‘get done’ to ‘tick’ the proverbial ‘box’. Neither should it be viewed as something to do to placate auditors or enforcement officers. But rather, as something positive which can have a direct effect on peace of mind and the overall profitability and reputation of the business.

The Benefits for Employees

As well as complying with the law, the main benefit of investing in training is ensuring that staff members are equipped to carry out their jobs competently, safely and confidently. It also ensures that standards across the establishment remain high and that consistency is maintained. As well as enabling employees to keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date, staff training also has a direct impact on morale and productivity. For example, where staff members recognize that the business owners value their contribution because they have invested in training and development, this will generally show in greater commitment and longevity, and retaining skilled staff is key to any successful business. Just on a practical level, trained staff who are motivated to come to work because they feel valued is what all potentially successful businesses need.

Training does not stand alone

Training does not stand alone nor is it a panacea against food poisoning, mal-practice or contamination. Remember that knowledge without application is effectively useless. It is imperative that knowledge gained from training is applied. It is worth noting that in a lot of food poisoning outbreaks, ignorance is not always responsible.
Training should be underpinned by effective supervision, and is something that is not a ‘once for all’ event. Refresher training and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) should be carried out regularly to ensure that skills and knowledge are kept up-to-date.
Want a successful food business?
Start by investing in staff training!

CaterSafe can deliver a range of on-site and off-site courses by professional trainers, ensuring that you and your staff comply with the law and develop skills and knowledge to enhance your business.
For more details, please contact a member of our training team.

Keeping Food Pests out of your Food Business!

A few weeks ago, ASDA were fined £300,000 for food safety breaches, but specifically for the abysmal lack of pest control, after dead mice and flies were discovered in the aisles of one of their home delivery depots which distributes food to online shoppers across London and Essex.

All food businesses are susceptible to pest infestations and pest harbourage and any pest infestation is a very serious problem, which does not just affect the profitability of your business – but which has potentially serious financial, moral and legal ramifications. It is worth noting that food premises have been closed down by environmental health officers due to an infestation of, or failure to control, pests.

Therefore it is absolutely vital to ensure that your food business has adequate pest-proofing in place and that products are safeguarded from contamination and defilement from pests.

Simply put, a food pest is any animal, insect or bird that can contaminate food, both physically (from fur, droppings or feathers) and microbiologically. As well as damage to products, food pests such as cockroaches and rodents carry a number of harmful diseases, which can be transmitted in various ways. For example by direct contact, scratches, or ingesting food or drink contaminated by them. Moreover, a number of rats carry bacteria called Leptospirosis (which can develop into Weil’s disease) which if left untreated in humans can kill.

It is therefore imperative that food pests are kept out!

Remember, it is much easier and simpler to stop pests from entering in the first place, than to deal with an infestation once it’s taken hold. As with most problems, prevention in the first instance is better than the cure. It is therefore important to make sure that appropriate controls are put in place to avoid an infestation of food pests.

 

Here are some very basic control measures to observe:

  • Firstly, always ensure you have an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system in place. This involves monitoring, prevention and control. This would normally be done in conjunction with a competent person / professional pest control contractor.
  • Make sure all windows in food rooms and food areas are ‘fly screened’.
  • Always check deliveries for signs of pests or pest activity. Reject deliveries if you have any evidence of contamination or harbourage.
  • Always store delivered goods in pest-proof containers and always off the floor.
  • Make sure the premises are well maintained and designed in such a way as to prevent entry of food pests.
  • Ensure that no ‘daylight’ can be seen below or around external doors.

 

Here is a video from the Food Standards Agency aimed at small food businesses:

effective hand washing

The importance of effective handwashing

Washing Your Hands Effectively

It is absolutely imperative that food handlers wash their hand frequently throughout the working day. This is one of the most simple, yet absolutely essential principles of food safety. There can potentially be millions of bacteria on your hands at any one time! Bacteria are measured in micrometres (µm). There are 1000 µm in 1 millimetre (mm). The average spherical bacterium measures on average around 1µm in diameter. Therefore, bacteria are far too small to be seen by the naked eye. Some of these are harmful (pathogens) and when they are transferred onto food, they can cause food poisoning.

Bacteria, however, can be eliminated with a simple an effective hand washing technique:

  1. Wet hands thoroughly
  2. Use liquid soap
  3. Rub hands vigorously – especially the nails, fingertips and thumbs (it is the vigour in handwashing which is effective (this should take at least 40 seconds – 1 minute)
  4. Rinse hands thoroughly
  5. Dry hands completely using a paper towel
  6. Turn the tap off using the paper towel!
  7. Bin the towel!

Handwashing:  – when to wash your hands – keeping your hands clean and the food safe!

Before entering a food room or handling food

After using the toilet

After taking a break, eating or smoking

After handling raw food

Before handling cooked, ready-to-eat food

After handling a dressing or changing a waterproof plaster

After handling boxes and food packaging

After handling waste or refuse

After cleaning or using cleaning chemicals

After coughing, sneezing or touching any other part of your body

After dealing with someone who is ill

After handling known allergens

Whilst such an obvious point to make, nevertheless, it is a very important one: Get into the habit of washing your hands correctly, often and always. Knowledge of hand hygiene and handwashing per se, without practice, is useless and at worst, dangerous! It’s a sad fact that many cases of food poisoning could have been avoided if the food handlers involved would have simply washed their hands!

Food Safety audit

10 tips for an Effective Food Safety Audit

How To Do An Effective Food Safety Audit

There are many benefits of carrying out regular audits, which include; honest self-assessment, giving feedback to management and identifying whether the systems, processes and procedures in place are working and meet the required objectives.  Audits should be proactive rather than reactive, and can identify potential future problems before they occur. Whether you are responsible for internal audits of your food premises, a third party auditor, or verifying HACCP and Food Safety Management Systems, here are some practical tips for carrying out an effective audit.

  1. Identify and ensure the competency of the auditor. The auditor / inspector should be highly knowledgeable and competent in food safety and HACCP (or the specific area which is to be audited). The auditor must be in full agreement about what is to be covered and the standards and set criteria thereof. This applies to internal as well as external audits.
  1. Before carrying out an audit it is essential to plan ahead! It has been said many times: “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Planning is vital to a successful and effective audit. As well as establishing the clear aims and objectives of the inspection, planning should take into account practical things like; the size and complexity of the business, the amount of travelling involved, site restrictions (such as opening times etc.), level of in-house expertise and any language barriers of staff.
  1. Communication is an integral part of carrying out an audit. It is important that the auditor communicates clearly and concisely. Be polite, affable, and professional. Don’t be overly familiar or effusive, but at the same time do not be too serious or austere. When verbally questioning staff and auditees make use of open, leading, and sympathetic questioning techniques. A good auditor will not just check, but will watch, listen, and ask questions. When talking to employees do not become side-tracked or distracted. While some ‘small talk’ is acceptable and sometimes necessary, always stick to the point.
  1. The auditor should be impartial, fair and objective, and act with integrity.
  1. Be methodical and systematic. Carry out the audit in a coherent manner. For example, the auditor should go through what they are auditing in a logical order from the beginning to the end. It’s more than merely being guided through mechanically by the audit checklist! It’s really about linking things together and checking the process meets the procedure, and the corresponding documentation. Always take notes as you go, whether written or on a smartphone, iPad or tablet.
  1. The auditor should take photographs as and when necessary – but only of what is relevant to the audit. What can’t speak can’t lie! Again, best on a smaller device such as an iPad or smartphone, rather than a large camera. We tend to use the iPhone 6s, which are discreet and have a good built in camera.
  1. If an audit is carried out at a busy time – don’t get in the way and definitely do not spend time interviewing people. Most of the time should be spent observing working practices. Also, do not stay longer than necessary. As soon as the objectives have been met you should depart. On the other hand, never leave until you have made sufficient judgement and your outcomes have been achieved.
  1. It is fundamental that auditors keep up to date with latest industry trends, scientific and epidemiological research and information. For example, within the context of a food business, the threat of Campylobacter in raw chicken is a greater problem today than salmonella. Advice may change as understanding increases.
  1. Always write up the audit report in a timely manner. This should be as close to the event as possible. Ensure that you write concisely and clearly. Avoid emotive or ‘flowery’ language. Write as dispassionately as possible. Opinions are fine, as long as they can be substantiated and are pertinent; however, reports should be written on fact and backed up by quantifiable and empirical evidence. Give clear recommendations and prioritised timescales which are practical, measurable, and achievable. Actions which need addressing immediately or within a few days should be dealt with and remedied at the time of visit, following verbal advice. However, it’s still good practice to record this in your report.
  1. When giving recommendations, it is very important that the auditor clearly distinguishes between recommendations based on best practice and legal requirements. Inexperienced auditors often get the two confused!

To learn more about being an effective auditor, contact us , and we’ll also let you have details of the next Level 3 Auditing and Inspection Skills training course that we are running in your area.

Illustration depicting a sign with a Listeria concept.

Listeria Monocytogenes

Why is Listeria Monocytogenes Such a Big Deal?

Listeria is a bacterium found in soil, plants, and water, and causes a serious infection known as Listeriosis – a disease that has severe complications that often requires hospitalization. The bacteria can be found in animals like cattle, sheep and goats, and contact with an infected animal, or consumption of contaminated meat, can cause a serious infection in humans.

The Listeria bacteria is common in foods such as smoked fish, meats and cheeses and can also be found in in raw vegetables. Whilst the bacteria can be destroyed by cooking raw meat at temperatures higher than 65 °C., unlike some other types of bacteria, Listeria tend to multiply in cooler temperatures, with the potential for contamination of cooked food that has been packaged – which is why safe food handling should be taken very seriously.

Once the Listeria Monocytogenes bacteria enter the human body it can cause symptoms such as mild flu, fever and gastroenteritis. Most reported cases have been due to consumption of contaminated foods.

Food Handlers need to understand that there is a risk of infection when foods, especially meats, are not cooked properly. High risk food sectors must fully adhere to Food Standards Agency guidelines when processing food that is prone to Listeria contamination and ensure that workers receive rigorous food safety training with constant qualified supervision.

By ensuring very high standards of food hygiene the potential hazard posed by Listeria can be significantly reduced, and this means ensuring there is a properly documented HACCP policy in place with trained and supervised staff.

Prevention is always better than cure so high risk foods should always be avoided by pregnant women, young children, the sick and elderly, and especially those with weakened immune systems as Listeria spreads from cell to cell, attacking the host’s immune system. It has been treated successfully with antibiotics such as penicillin.

 

Hand Hygiene

Hand Hygiene: Ignaz Semmelweis – A Man of his TimeIgnaz Semmelweis

In today’s modern medical world, it is required practice for surgeons to thoroughly wash their hands (referred to as scrubbing) before undertaking an operation. Many years ago, in the 1840s, a Hungarian physician by the name of Ignaz Semmelweis was criticized for suggesting that there was a connection between the poor hand hygiene of physicians and maternal deaths and neonatal mortality. Here’s what happened:

In 1846, a young Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis reported for his new job as head of the maternity clinic at the General Hospital in Vienna. Semmelweis became interested in finding out why many new mothers and their babies were dying from puerperal fever or childbed fever. So he embarked on a process of collecting crucial data which would help him find out the possible cause of the deaths.

At the beginning there seemed to be no obvious connection to the deaths, but later on as Semmelweis was examining the body of a colleague who had died, he realized that that colleague had died of childbed fever. This made him realize that the fever didn’t just affect mothers and newborn babies. Semmelweis arrived at the conclusion that the death of his colleague (a pathologist) must have resulted from cadaver contamination when the pathologist was working on an autopsy.

Semmelweis made it a requirement for his medical staff to wash their hands and instruments with a chlorine solution. At the time, he did not know anything about germs, but he knew that the best way to get rid of the smell of the cadaverous particles was to use chlorine. After this directive, the rate of childbed fever fell. However, the other doctors were not happy with Semmelweis. His directive made it look as if they were the ones passing on childbed fever to the mothers in the maternity clinic, an image the doctors were not ready to accept. Consequently, Semmelweis’ directives were resisted and he eventually lost his job. During the following years, Semmelweis suffered from mental illness and was committed to an asylum, where he died at the early age of 47.

Semmelweis was indeed a man of his time, a physician who practiced in an age where physician-scientists were beginning to look at illnesses from an anatomy point of view, unlike previously when illnesses were said to be caused by evil spirits. Today, hand-washing remains one of the most critical tools of public health. Hand hygiene is known to combat the spread of diseases and should always be practiced by food handlers.

 

Using Cleaning Cloths Safely and Hygienically.

Using Cleaning Cloths Safely and Hygienically.

cleaning cloths

In response to a frequent question we receive regarding the use of dish cloths for cleaning and disinfection in the kitchen, here are some of our thoughts on the subject, in the context of food and food safety.

Cleaning cloths, improperly used, have the potential to be the cause of cross-contamination; spreading food borne pathogens around kitchens and food rooms. Studies have recognised that cloths used in both domestic and commercial kitchens can harbour very high levels of pathogenic bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella. Combine this with food handlers who have an inadequate level of food hygiene knowledge, and you have a food poisoning disaster just waiting to happen!

It’s important to note that there’s no point in having segregated areas, surfaces and equipment for food production and preparation if all surfaces and equipment end up being cleaned with the same cloth.  Damp dish cloths, ingrained with grease and food residue, left lying around for hours on end, provide the optimum environment for the growth of bacteria. The bacteria is then spread around causing contamination each time the cloth is used; sometimes a single cloth can be used multiple times by several different food handlers, further exacerbating the danger and therefore exposing many more people to food poisoning.

The number seven is widely acknowledged to be the complete number, so here are seven very straightforward safety tips to prevent cross-contamination when using cleaning cloths.

  1. We would recommend when practicable, using single-use, disposable cloths. This method is always preferable; as it means that the cloth (along with any pathogens) can be disposed of immediately after cleaning; reducing the risk of contamination. In some instances, this could mean replacing traditional cloths with a blue paper towel, but only if the paper is sufficiently durable to cope with the task in hand.
  2. Where possible, colour-code your cleaning cloths. There is a wide variety of different coloured cleaning cloths on the market today, which can be purchased inexpensively. If it’s not practical to have a full set of colours, it can be as simple as having blue ‘J Cloths’ for the cooked, ready-to-eat areas of production in your kitchen, and red cloths for the raw areas.
  3. It’s imperative that cloths are replaced regularly, but especially when they start to tear or become damaged.
  4. Ensure cleaning cloths are thoroughly washed after each use. Never use the same cloth for cleaning between different tasks, especially between raw and cooked areas!
  5. Subsequent to washing, best practice would be to fully immerse the cloth in hot water above 82°c for several minutes, (to disinfect). All cleaning cloths should be laundered daily either in a washing machine on a boil wash and/or in a dishwasher, and always left to thoroughly air dry before reusing.
  6. Provide a clearly designated receptacle in the kitchen for all dirty cloths. This is a practical measure you can take to prevent them from being reused before they have been washed. Likewise, make sure that all clean cloths are stored separately and hygienically away from food.
  7. Ensure there is an adequate supply of fresh cloths at the start of each working day so that food handlers are not tempted to keep reusing soiled cloths.

Other important points to consider

Make sure that your cleaning procedures and cleaning schedules are up-to-date, and that cleaning procedures are written down. The policy on cleaning cloths should be clearly documented on the schedule, along with cleaning methods and the approved chemicals which are to be used. When using cleaning chemicals, it is absolutely essential that the manufacturer’s instructions are followed at all times. This includes dilution rates and the required contact time. It’s also a very good idea to check that your disinfectants and sanitisers meet the required standards, as many don’t! The Food Standards Agency state in their E. coli O157 Cross-contamination Factsheet – Caterers (2014) that “…Disinfectants and sanitisers must at least meet the requirements of one of the following standards: BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697; or other standards that meet the same conditions and requirements.”

Cleaning and disinfection must be carried out on all hand and food-contact surfaces and equipment. Effective cleaning precedes effective disinfection, disinfection won’t work on visibly soiled surfaces; one follows the other. Another obvious point to make is never to spray cleaning chemicals around open food, as this could easily result in chemically contaminating your products, but more seriously, damaging the health of those people who go on to consume the food.

Finally, and very importantly, managers and supervisors must clearly communicate standards to food handlers, and ensure this is underpinned by ongoing and effective supervision. Managers can massively help implement standards and maintain a good food safety culture if they lead by example and put into practice ‘what they preach’. Hypocrisy is a big turn-off. A manager who is sloppy will often find that their staff are too – and in all probability, to a greater degree. This principle applies and extends into all areas of food safety.