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How clean is clean?

Most commercial caterers and kitchen operators have realized that no matter how good their daily cleaning is, there are some parts of the kitchen which are difficult to clean or are downright inaccessible.

The build-up carbon in ovens and the accumulation of grease deposited in ventilation system are examples, which require heavier duty cleaning than can be carried out by the kitchen staff themselves. This is the point when a specialist contractor is called in to dismantle many pieces of equipment and bring them, and the fabric of the kitchen itself, back to a sparkling, "looking like new" appearance.

Fitting in with a busy restaurant or industrial kitchen is vital and much of this type of work has to be carried out during down-time, while ensuring that the kitchen is ready for start-up the next day.

The work is hard, intensive and requires committed and fully trained personnel. Not only do technician need to be skilled in cleaning techniques and material, but also competent and trained with regard to gas installing standards if dismantling and re-installing gas equipment shall be required.

The goal for both the kitchen operator and the cleaning contractor is not only a visible and better-looking kitchen, but also confidence in visible cleanliness, which involves the removal of potentially illness-causing bacterial contamination.

Deep cleaning of kitchen has been undertaken for many, many years but until very recently the monitoring of the "invisible cleanliness" has been assumed or attempted to be checked by swabs and sampling incubation over three or so days; not that useful when the kitchen probably started operating immediately after the clean finished, while waiting for the results. Now Rentokil Hygiene Division has combined its expertise to deep cleaning kitchen with the latest rapid-result testing for showing the level of contamination on any surface, in their new service, Cater-Clean.

The programme involves the technician taking swabs of various items of equipment and surface prior to cleaning carried out. Rentokil Hygiene Division has been working in collaboration with Biotrace and is working using the Biotrace single shot swab, which is tested immediately with shot swab, which is tested immediately with the company's Uni-lite system. A print-out of the result is produced instantaneously.

The principle behind rapid-result monitoring of this type is adenosine triphosphate (ATP) luminometry. The swab is immediately mixed with reagents in a one-use container and the measurement of activity is given by the detection of light generated by the ATP. The test is technically classed as non-microbiological, as all cells, not just microbial, produce ATP and the result shows whatever contamination there is of the surface, i.e. bacteria and food debris

What this does mean is that a " before and after" swab test can inclusively show how well the deep clean has been carried out. The results are printed out and kept by the customer in his Cater-Clean system manual, along with a dated certificate confirming the operation, the result for any particular piece of equipment or surface can also be used by the customer to monitor hot spots of activity or trends. This knowledge can also be used in preventive management techniques such as changing daily cleaning methods or even moving specific food preparation areas.

The recent changes in food hygiene legislation and recommended good practices mean that companies operating kitchens for staff or public need to show they meet the requirements. The Scottish E. coli 0157 incident and the subsequent Pinnington report highlighted the need for diligence in commercial food preparations. Combining a professional, deep-cleaning operation with tangible results of this will help those involved in running catering operation to satisfy themselves, their customers, and enforcement authorities that reach the standards set.

Nutrition & Food Science, Number 5. pp. 194-195, MCB University Press. ISSN 0034-6659

Directorate: Food Control
Department of Health
Private Bag X828
0001 Pretoria


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