“With 29 people now confirmed dead, the listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe from one Colorado farm is officially the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in the United States since 1924, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”
The above quote is what greeted readers of “USA Today” on the 3rd November 2011. The full article can be accessed through the links above, but I bet that most chefs would never have considered a melon to be a high-risk food, let alone be capable of killing people.
When you read the article (and other associated commentary) the cause of this outbreak has been linked to poor hygiene in the packing shed on the farm.
I have already written a couple of blog posts e on the importance of cleaning and in particular sanitisers, so my views on hygiene are well known. This is just an unfortunate case where a food business in the US has graphically highlighted the consequences of an un clean work place.
I believe that there are only three basics components in ensuring cleaning is conducted properly. They are:
- Knowing what, when and how to clean
- Having a chemical supplier that provides appropriate chemicals
- Having employees that are adequately trained
The first point is easily achieved if you spend a little bit of time in preparing a cleaning schedule. This involves you walking around your kitchen and identifying:
- What needs to be cleaned (i.e. floors, benches, ovens, utensils etc.)
- How frequently it needs to be cleaned (before use, after use, weekly, monthly etc.)
- How you are going to clean (i.e. what steps are involved)
- The equipment and chemicals needed to adequately clean
- Who is responsible for the cleaning and checking the cleaning
The second point is harder. Many people solely choose a chemical supplier based on price with little consideration for effectiveness, suitability or ease of use. The best chemical companies provide automatic dispensing systems, labelled bottles, clear instructions, MSDS and colour coded systems. Some even:
- Service your dishwasher
- Provide audits/ reports on chemical usage
- Staff training
- Conduct micro testing to ensure effectiveness of chemicals.
All of this is generally built into the cost of the chemical and cannot be compared when purely judging the price of two different 5 Litre containers. Speak to your supplier and see what services they provide or you are missing out on.
The third point (as indicated above) may be provided by the chemical supplier. If it is not provided by the supplier, then this training needs to be conducted internally by a suitably qualified and experienced employee. Some of our clients have developed induction manuals for all kitchen hands and stewards that include:
- Cleaning schedules
- Summary of chemical uses
- Monitoring forms
- Safety information
We have included a couple of items, so that you can see how we would complete this for a client, however instead of “detergent” and “no rinse sanitiser” I suggest you use your actual chemical names.
As summer approaches, the importance of cleaning becomes even more important.
P.s Don’t forget to download the free template for a cleaning schedules.
Other references to this outbreak can be found at: