Avoid cross-contamination and serve food on safe ware

5 tips for your kitchen

Contaminated equipment, used for cooking and serving food, is one of the top 5 most common reasons for documented food born illnesses. This according to US Centers for disease control and prevention, the national public health agency in the United States.

- The whole chain from uncooked to prepared on a plate and finally served to the guests starts in the kitchen and it begins with clean kitchen ware, says Ulrika Ahnfelt Gran, Product Manager, at Granuldisk, who has over 20 years of experience in the Commercial kitchen industry.

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What is cross-contamination?

    Cross-contamination occurs when microorganisms are moved from a surface, or from a food product to another. In a busy kitchen, with staff with multiple tasks and functions and raw food to handle, prepare and cook, there are many risk factors where cross-contamination could occur.

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When does it occur?

    Some examples:

    • When contaminated cleaning equipment is used on surfaces where food is usually prepared.

    • When a member of the staff handles raw food, and thereafter, without washing his or her hands properly, manages cooked food ready to be served to the customers.

    • When clean and sanitised cutlery or plates is handled with gloves that prior has been used when, for example, washing dirty dishes.

A lot of pots and utensils needs to be washed

1. Clear division between dirty and clean – And make it visible to all

It might be an obvious one, but if performed wrong, the equipment could easily get contaminated. Therefore, the right conditions need to be in place. A good idea is to divide the ware washing area into a red zone (for dirty dishes) and a green zone (for the clean dishes). Tape a line to the floor to make this clear to all. Make sure everyone knows that nothing may go over this line without having entered the ware washer first.

-  When the clean pots and pans are ready, they should be handled and moved right away in the best of worlds, and stored somewhere outside the ware washing area. Because this is a moist and humid room that we know, is an environment where bacteria and other pathogens thrive, says Ulrika Ahnfelt Gran, Product Manager at Granuldisk.

I visited an experimental central kitchen in France many years ago where they had a system with foodstuffs only moving one way. The barriers from one zone to another were either cold storage or ovens built into the separating walls with access from both sides. Staff worked in their designated aisles and did not move around in the kitchen. This is an example of how clear barriers could be created and cross-contamination could be prevented.

Ulrika Ahnfelt Gran - Product Manager, Granuldisk
Quote Images Ulrika Ahnfelt Gran 1

2. A ware washing method that sanitises the dishes completely

Manual pot washing in a sink is the most common way to handle dirty pots and pans today. (Yes! In 2021.) By doing so, you are missing the crucial step of sanitising your wash ware and at the same time jeopardising the health and well-being of your guests or patients.

– It’s impossible to sanitise pots and pans in a manual process, as the high temperatures needed to do so would be too hot for a human to handle. The wash water temperature in a sink is generally low, often around 40-45 °C, which is not nearly enough for full sanitisation. Bacteria and microorganisms survive in temperatures ranging from -2 to +60 °C and can stay alive in sinks for more than 6 hours why manual pot washing is not to be recommended, says Ulrika Ahnfelt Gran and continues:

– A ware washing solution, should follow hygiene guidelines: DIN 10534 and/or NSF/ANSI-3 requirements. Then you can be sure that your machine provides high enough temperatures (wash temp around 65 degrees and rinse temp of at least 85 degrees) to sanitise your wash ware properly and keep your guests far away from eating food prepared and served on contaminated wares.

Girl caring pots and utensils to the ware washing

3. Develop and maintain appropriate procedures

Commercial kitchens should strive to keep all parts of their facilities and equipment clean. Dirt is never positive for the business and collects a lot of bacteria. Dirt also wears on surfaces and equipment and spreads easily. This also goes for the ware washing area. Remember that the cooking process starts here with clean wares to cook and prepare in.

- Develop procedures and routines and make sure everyone in the staff knows how and when to perform each task, says Ulrika Ahnfelt Gran and continues:

- It is also a good idea to decide where each item should be stored, and also, where it can not be stored. An example is trolleys that are used for dirty wares but also for storing and handle clean wares. This is a great example of how cross-contamination could happen without proactive thinking and good routines.

Never use towels to dry the dishes since the towel easily could be contaminated when being used repeatedly. Invest in a ware washer where you are able to pull the basket out so water droplets can evaporate quickly. When using a quality ware washer the ware should be dry in maximum 1 minute because of the high temperatures. Remember to pull the basket out right away when the wash cycle is done for the best results.

Ulrika Ahnfelt Gran - Product Manager, Granuldisk
Quote Images Ulrika Ahnfelt Gran 2

4. The importance of the right and properly marked equipment

Corners and edges that is hard to reach is a potential dirt and grease trap, and levels up the cross-contamination risk. This is something to consider when evaluating new tools for the kitchen and ware washing area. It is also important to consider the risk of staff performing the cleaning procedures on areas used to prepare food with contaminated equipment that are not completely sanitised. If unsure what chemicals to use in what area, our best tips are to consult your local detergent company.

- Colour coding your equipment like cutting boards and cleaning tools makes it clear to everyone what should be used where and when. Even colour-coded clothes could be a good idea. Then you wear a special colour depending on the tasks and what type of items or food you’re handling. Always remember that none of this could take away the fact that tools and clothes still need proper cleaning and sanitisation, says Ulrika Ahnfelt Gran.

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5. Always make sure your staff maintain a high level of personal hygiene.

This might be an obvious one but since it is on the list of the top 5 most common reasons for documented food born illnesses (according to the US Centers for disease control and prevention) it is still important to mention. A poor personal hygiene could mean coming to work when sick, not washing hands, coughing or sneezing in the food or touching wounds or rashes without hands being washed.

- If gloves are used, make sure there are proper routines for the usages. How often and after which task should they be changed etc, says Ulrika Ahnfelt Gran.


Do you need our help to secure your sanitisation process or review your options?

Since Granuldisk started in the late '80s, one of our core missions has been to provide sanitised and clean wash ware to our customers. Having met millions of customers in the commercial kitchen industry world-wide, week after week, year after year, we’ve gathered a lot of knowledge about safe washing results. We'd love to share our knowledge and learnings with you.

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