Sanitation practices are becoming more sophisticated and technology is helping out.
Some newer automated products can help you keep your kitchenwares and surfaces cleaner than ever before. But clean is no longer enough. The importance of true sanitation — eliminating microbes and pathogens — is vital. With many municipalities setting high standards, the need for disinfecting equipment is mandatory. Many jurisdictions are requiring HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) plans. These plans often need to outline steps you're taking to prevent the spread of foodborne illness by eliminating pathogens on food contact surfaces. Here are a few items that will help you deal with dirt and grease in the kitchen and on your equipment.
Recirculating soakers are fairly new to restaurants. The soakers do all the work of getting baked-on soil off pots and pans and other kitchenwares, though some manual scrubbing may be necessary. The unit is basically a big water pump built into a pot sink, but that's an oversimplification. The cleaning principle behind these units is simply water agitation or water moving over and around soiled pots and pans to loosen and wash away food particles and dirt. Fast-moving water will quickly loosen light to medium soil. Heavy soil and baked- on carbon deposits may require some scraping and scrubbing. Some systems also have built in heaters that work in conjunction with the circulating jets to keep water warm to aid in loosening soil.
Some recirculating soakers are small fractional horsepower attachments to a pot sink that loop water through a pump at one end of the sink. These units can be effective and are reasonably priced. All that is required to retrofit most pot sinks are an electrical outlet and a mechanic to make the appropriate cut out in your sink.
If you have a large operation or use a lot of labor to wash pots, you may want to consider some of the larger units.
These large recirculators generally require 208 volt service for the water pump and high wattage heater.
Pressure washers can help clean kitchens and offer some reduction in water and chemical usage over traditional clean-up methods. There are several types of units sized and equipped for different applications. The most popular style is a single wall-mount unit requiring only a water source and a standard 120-volt electrical outlet. The units typically have a built-in pump, hose reel and an inlet for detergent to be directly injected into the water stream. Hose lengths of 30-35 feet are standard, but lengths up to 100 feet are often available. With a 100-foot radius for spray cleaning, a centrally located unit may be all that is needed for a small- to medium-size operation.
Several spray sanitizer systems are available, including one that uses water, salt and electricity to produce an environmentally friendly, food-safe sanitizing solution. Other units change the pH of the water to make it more acidic or alkaline to sanitize. These units achieve the same end result — food and surface sanitizing. All these items require only an electrical outlet and a water connection.
Kitchen Air Sanitizer
Another manufacturer has taken the approach of sanitizing the air in the kitchen rather than the surfaces. This item may prove to be a revolutionary new part of kitchens of the future. The equipment operates without using chemicals by only using the air in the kitchen. The system operates 24 hours per day to kill bacteria, mold and viruses. It also reduces odor in the kitchen. While it doesn't do the scrubbing and washing you still need to do, it goes a long way to enhance your existing HACCP and sanitation programs.
If a kitchen area is relatively small, a single unit will be able to cover a few hundred square feet. A larger kitchen will need a perforated pipe system running from a large power pack around the perimeter of your kitchen.
Nobody likes to clean because it's hard, dirty work. However, equipment manufacturers have come up with ways to take out some of the drudgery.
Dan Bendall is a principal of FoodStrategy, a Maryland-based consulting firm specializing in planning foodservice facilities. He is also a member of Foodservice Consultants Society International. Bendall can be reached at 301-926-8181.