Two stage cleaning in hospitality and catering

Table of Contents

Today, I want to talk about the two stage cleaning process and how this applies to food businesses in the hospitality and catering sectors.

This is important because without effective cleaning and disinfection procedures, food poisoning bacteria may not be reduced to safe levels.

Over the years working as an Environmental Health Officer, I’ve seen food businesses failing to clean and disinfect properly. The result can be a low food hygiene rating or worse causing customers to suffer from food poisoning.

In this blog, I’ll answer some key questions around cleaning and disinfection and share the common mistakes I’ve seen so that you can avoid these.

Let’s get straight to it.

1. What is cleaning and disinfection?

Cleaning is the process of removing dirt, grease and loose debris from a surface. To clean effectively, you must use a suitable detergent to remove and dissolve the grease, dirt and food debris.

Disinfection is the process of reducing harmful microorganisms to a safe level. Disinfection can be achieved using heat or chemical products (i.e. a disinfectant or sanitiser).

2. What’s the difference between a disinfectant and a sanitiser?

A disinfectant is a chemical that kills bacteria.

A sanitiser is a two-in-one product. It acts as a detergent and a disinfectant. You need to use it in two stages. The first stage is the cleaning stage; to remove grease and dirt. The second stage is to disinfect.

3. What is the two stage cleaning process?

The two stage cleaning procedure is used to ensure that harmful microorganisms are reduced to a safe level. It is important that food businesses follow this method of cleaning. Here is an explanation of the two stages.

Stage 1: Cleaning

Cleaning staff should pre-clean by removing loose dirt or food residues with a disposable cloth or blue roll. Then clean using hot soapy water containing a detergent or a cleaning product (i.e., a sanitiser) to remove visible dirt, grease and food debris from the surface. Then wipe/rinse with clean water.

Stage 2: Disinfection

Apply a disinfectant or sanitiser on the surface and leave for the recommended contact time. Where required, rinse and dry the surface.

It is vital that dirt, grease and loose debris are removed first because their presence can reduce the effectiveness of a disinfectant or sanitiser.

When doing food hygiene inspections, often I would pick a staff member and ask them to describe or demonstrate how they clean and disinfect a work surface. I am checking to see if the staff member has been trained to follow the two stage cleaning process as part of their job.

4. Why is it important to follow the two stage cleaning process?

It is very important for food businesses to follow the two stage cleaning process to ensure that harmful microorganisms are reduced to a safe level. This is an important step in protecting food from contaminants such as harmful pathogens that can occur through cross-contamination and even physical contaminants that could fall into food.

5. What is cross-contamination?

Cross-contamination is a common cause of food poisoning. It is the process by which harmful bacteria from raw foods (i.e. raw meat or soiled vegetables) transfer to ready-to-eat foods. Effective cleaning and disinfection are vital to control cross-contamination.

There are two types of cross-contamination:

  1. Direct – for example where raw meat directly touches ready-to-eat food or where raw meat juices drip onto ready-to-eat food. During an inspection of a food business, I actually found a mint raita dip where raw meat juices had dripped onto it!
  2. Indirect- for example pathogens transferring onto ready-to-eat food via a ‘vehicle’. Vehicles include equipment, surfaces and hands. An example of a vehicle could be fridge or freezer door handles or even the same chopping board being used to prepare raw and ready-to-eat foods.

6. What does the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) check in relation to your sanitiser?

There are a number of things that the EHO may check in relation to your sanitiser including compliance with the relevant standards, contact time and dilution rate. I suggest you check you have these things in place before the EHO does!

BS EN 1276 and BS EN 13697

Where businesses prepare or handle raw and ready-to-eat foods, food preparation surfaces and equipment must be cleaned and disinfected between uses. Chemical disinfectants (or sanitisers) used for these purposes must comply with either BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697.

If you have trained your staff to be aware of this requirement it will give the EHO confidence if you can show to them that your sanitiser complies. The information is usually on the bottle, but if can’t find it check with the manufacturer or your chemical supplier.

Contact times

This is something I would expect staff to have received training in.

The contact time is how long a sanitiser or disinfectant needs to remain on a surface to work effectively. These chemicals don’t kill bacteria instantly, they need time in contact with the surface to reduce harmful microorganisms to a safe level.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed staff spray sanitiser onto a surface and then immediately wipe it off. This really doesn’t fill the EHO with confidence. And trust me, this is something us EHO’s are observing.

Dilution rate

Some chemicals require dilution. Make sure you check the manufacturer’s instructions to see if your sanitiser or disinfectant needs diluting. If it does, look for the ‘dilution rate’ or ‘dilution factor’ for much water to mix with the concentrated chemical.

During an inspection or audit I want to know that staff who as part of their job are responsible for diluting a concentrated sanitiser, are able to explain to me how they do this.

If you don’t get this right, the sanitiser could be too weak and won’t work. You will be spraying water onto the surface and wasting your money. If you put too much chemical, the sanitiser could be too strong and cause chemical contamination of your food.

Food safe

Your sanitiser must be food-safe. This should be clear from the product label. If in doubt, check with your supplier or the manufacturer.

7. What items should be cleaned and disinfected?

Regularly clean and disinfect all the items that hands and food come into contact with.

As a general rule, this will include:

  • All food contact surfaces, including chopping boards, work surfaces, equipment, utensils, fridges, cloths, and ice machines.
  • All hand contact surfaces, including work surfaces, taps, fridge handles, door handles, switches, can openers, rubbish bins, broom and mop handles, telephones, etc.

8. How should I clean and disinfect a temperature probe?

Temperature probes must be kept clean so that they don’t cause cross-contamination. Clean and disinfect the temperature probe before and after you have inserted it into food. This means, wipe the probe with one wipe to remove any food residue, then wipe it again with a new wipe to disinfect it. Also, follow any contact time set by the manufacturer.

If you are using probe wipes, make sure they are food safe and comply with either BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697.

9. The importance of staff training

To ensure that the EHO has confidence in how you are managing cleaning and disinfection in your business it is essential that your staff are effectively trained. After all, it only takes one mistake by a food handler to cost you your food hygiene rating or cause a food poisoning outbreak.

TL;DR

  • Cleaning is the process of removing dirt, grease and loose debris from a surface.
  • Disinfection is the process of reducing harmful microorganisms to a safe level.
  • The two stage cleaning procedure is used to ensure that harmful microorganisms are reduced to a safe level. Stage one is the cleaning stage and stage two is the disinfection stage.
  • There are particular things that the EHO will check in relation to your sanitiser. These include compliance with the relevant standards, contact time and dilution rate.
  • Chemical disinfectants (or sanitisers) must comply with either BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697.
  • The contact time is how long a sanitiser or disinfectant needs to remain on a surface to work effectively. You will generally find this on the product label.
  • Make sure you check the manufacturer’s instructions to see if you sanitiser or disinfectant needs diluting. If it does, look for the ‘dilution rate’ or ‘dilution factor’. This will tell you how much water to mix with the concentrated chemical.
  • To ensure that the EHO has confidence in how you are managing cleaning and disinfection in your business it is essential that your staff are effectively trained.

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Written by Chartered Environmental Health Officer, Natalie Stanton.

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