As Americans, our busy schedules and long work hours leave little time for preparing complex meals at the end of a grueling workday. Enter the meal kit – a box of pre-portioned food ingredients and a recipe to prepare a home cooked meal in minutes. Meal kits have surged in popularity in recent years through online subscription services. To recapture customers, many grocery stores are also now preparing their own kits with pre-cut ingredients and simple instructions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million Americans contract a foodborne illness each year, giving retailers an obligation to protect consumers. Proper facility sanitization plays a vital step in this responsibility. Thorough sanitization prevents the spread of pathogens and reduces the risks of consumer contraction of potentially deadly foodborne illnesses.
Selecting a sanitizer
Sanitizers are not meant to eliminate all organisms, but rather, they are intended to reduce microorganisms to a safe level. Sanitizers are safe for use on food surfaces and any surface that comes in contact with food needs to be sanitized.
When selecting a sanitizer, it’s important to choose a product that it is EPA registered. Check the label to make sure that the sanitizer is effective against the organisms of concern. A sanitizer must be compatible with the equipment that is being sanitized.
It’s also recommended to select a simple and safe dosing system to use with the sanitizer to prevent employee contact with concentrated chemicals and ensure the sanitizer is correctly diluted each time. Work with a knowledgeable chemical supplier when selecting sanitizers as they can provide recommendations, clarify what the sanitizer will and will not do and offer training.
Using a sanitizer
The frequency of surface sanitizing varies based on the temperature of the surface. However, surfaces should be sanitized at least every four hours, and possibly more frequently.
Employees should be well trained on proper use of sanitizers. Often, employees are tempted to use “extra” sanitizer to ensure bacteria is removed. Unfortunately, the use of extra sanitizer is wasteful, can be hazardous, damaging to waste or water systems, and can be a misuse of the sanitizer which violates federal law.
If it appears that a sanitizer is not working properly, often the cleaning and rinsing process preceding the sanitation step was inadequate. Soil and cleaning chemicals that are not rinsed off of a surface can inactivate some commonly used sanitizers.
Protecting customers and future business
Contaminated food from grocery shelves or in take-home meal kits prepared by the retailer can result in costly recalls, negative publicity and lost business. Sometimes, it’s impossible for a business to fully recover from these consequences. It’s important for every retailer to maintain the highest cleaning and sanitization standards in order to preserve brand reputation.
Understanding best practices for selecting and using sanitizers protects employees, customers and brand reputation by reducing the risk of potentially deadly outbreaks.
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