More Than Half of all UK Restaurant Kitchens Have Unsafe Levels Of Bacteria!

According to the Health Protection Agency, fully 57% of UK restaurant kitchens had unacceptable levels of bacterial growth, especially in ‘trouble spots’ like cleaning cloths and mops. Experts believe this is one of the chief reasons food poisoning has become so common recently, leading to thousands of unnecessary illnesses every year.

The regular suspects

The microorganisms that cause ‘food poisoning’ and other gastrointestinal complaints frequently contracted at restaurants, pubs and cafes are well known. E. coli is perhaps the most famous, but even more common are the likes of Enterobacteriaceae and Listeria, or even Staphylococcus aureus – a staph infection.

Keeping the kitchen clean

Ironically, the cloths we use to clean our kitchens may be contributing most to these unhygienic conditions. The fact that cleaning cloths so regularly sit in damp, bacteria-friendly conditions for hours or days at a time leads to heavy bacterial loads.

These are spread not just to the work surfaces they are supposed to clean but to the hand of employees, who quickly spread them well beyond the kitchen or food preparation area.

Ideally, these cloths should be laundered (or replaced entirely) much more frequently than they are. However, studies have shown that less than 1/3 of reviewed commercial kitchens adhere to national standards in this way. Most kitchens do attempt to disinfect their cleaning cloths at least once per day, but there was found to be no consistent methodology.

For example, many restaurant kitchens soak their cleaning cloths in a mixture of bleach and water overnight. Bleach or any other disinfectant usually does an excellent job of killing the bacteria, but does little to remove the food particles and grease that work their way into the fibres. These are then spread back onto surfaces by these ‘clean’ cloths and act as a fertile breeding ground for bacteria that fall onto it from the air.

Avoiding cross-contamination

This is an especially important concept for those commercial kitchens that prepare both raw and ready to eat foods. Cooking usually sterilises food, but if it comes into contact with surfaces, utensils or hands which have not been cleaned since contacting raw meats or un-cleaned raw vegetables (including salad greens), they can pass on dangerous bacteria or their waste products which can then taint the cooked food.

The best way to avoid this is to keep your raw and cooked food preparation areas entirely separate. Use different countertops, utensils and even refrigerators for raw and cooked foods or ingredients.

If that is impractical, at least clean and disinfect your workspace, hands and utensils after touching or preparing any raw ingredients, especially meats.

The same attention should be used for cleaning cloths – always sanitise them after cleaning up after raw food preparation, and try to keep the cloths from the raw prep area separate from the cooked prep area.

These seem like fairly simple rules to follow, yet more than half of the UKs commercial kitchens still underperform when it comes to actual measured bacteria levels. Make sure these best practices become the norm rather than the ideal – your customers will thank you for it!

At Ductbusters we offer a wide range of services to help improve the quality of indoor air within your establishment.

For more information, please call 0800 085 0403

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