Methods for cleaning & sanitizing food contact surfaces (countertops) to prevent cross contamination in restaurant kitchens
Background: Cross contamination can occur in restaurant kitchens when food contact surfaces such as countertops are inadequately cleaned between preparation of raw and ready to eat foods. Previous research has demonstrated that washing with detergent and water, rinsing, then applying a sanitizer solution is the most effective cleaning method. The second most effective cleaning method is to use detergent and water alone. In practice, the author has observed kitchen staff using sanitizer alone to clean kitchen countertops. This study surveyed British Columbia restaurant kitchen staff on current practices and makes recommendations to improve cleaning and sanitization practices for the purpose of preventing cross contamination. Methods: A survey was prepared using SurveyMonkey and distributed through Facebook to the author’s contacts in the restaurant industry. The Facebook post included a request for anyone to share the survey link with their contacts who work in BC restaurant kitchens. The survey was shared 21 times by 14 different people. The survey asked questions about restaurant type and position, Foodsafe level, and about cleaning practices such as frequency and cleaning compounds used. Results: When asked what cleaning compounds are most often used to clean work surfaces (countertops) in their restaurant, 56.5% of respondents reported sanitizer solution only, 30.4% of respondents reported soap & water followed by sanitizer solution, and 13.0% reported soap and water only. When asked why sanitizer solution only was used to clean countertops, 46.2% of respondents said it was company policy, 23.1% of respondents said time savings, and 15.4% of respondents indicated that an Environmental Health Officer had recommended sanitizer use and that is what lead to sanitizer alone being used to clean countertops. Conclusions: In practice, some restaurant staff do not use sanitizer effectively and may believe it is a substitute for detergent. Using sanitizer alone is not as effective as using detergent alone. Detergent alone can provide a 2-3 log bacterial reduction. If staff are busy and are only going to use one cleaning step, detergent alone is the best method. Environmental Health Officers should review sanitation plans and talk with operators to determine current cleaning practices in food service establishments. Operators and staff should be re-educated on the importance of the three-step method. It may be beneficial to recommend that sanitizer use be decreased overall to encourage the use of soap and water. It may only be necessary to use sanitizer after high-risk jobs such as preparing raw meat or at the end of the day.