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Prevent food poisoning on your premises

08 October 2014

The correct use of bactericidal chemical products plays a vital role in controlling the cross-contamination of food poisoning bacteria within commercial food premises. RP Adam provides clarification on the disinfection of food contact surfaces and explains why food business operators should comply with the official guidance

It has become common-place for catering consumable distributors and food business operators (FBO) to wrongly believe that using a detergent disinfectant which complies with the BS EN 1276 standard is sufficient in itself to adhere to the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Guidance on E. Coli 0157 and the Control of Cross-Contamination. BS EN 1276 requires a 99.999% kill rate against four specific organisms, at a stated dilution and a contact time within five minutes. A product that claims a 99.9% kill rate will clearly not be up to the required standard. 

Further, many businesses are focusing on the "fastest bacteria kill rate" contact times achievable and are "conveniently" side-stepping two other critical issues in selecting appropriate disinfectants, namely the dilution rates at which the chemical was tested at and the fact that the Guidance quite clearly states a two-stage-process MUST take place, one being "cleaning" and two "disinfecting" a visibly clean surface.  

Contact times

Compared to the domestic kitchen most commercial catering premises will have relatively larger food contact surface areas to clean and disinfect. As there needs to be a two-stage process, by the time a gross clean has taken place, followed by a repeat application for disinfection, a five minute contact time is usually more than sufficient as long as the two-stage-process is actioned. Some FBO believe this contact time is too long, but in reality it is more than appropriate. It is not for the EHO to determine whether the tested contact time is too long or inappropriate, it is their job to ensure that food hygiene processes are followed strictly and are maintained within a controlled hygiene system.

Dilution rates

As mentioned the 1276 standard in itself is NOT sufficient. The test certificate will detail the dilution rate at which the disinfectant passed the test. Quite clearly, products that pass the test neat, or at low dilutions (5 or 10:1 with water) are clearly going to be expensive in use, over products that are tested at 50, 100 or 200:1. Reputable chemical suppliers will detail on the chemical concentrate label and the dilution bottle, dilution rates and contact times. If this information is not visible to the FBO, then the EHO may consider their food hygiene system flawed and may mark the FBO down on a non-conformance.

Cleaning performance

A sanitiser may have excellent bug killing properties, but it needs to clean organic matter quickly and effectively. Many sanitisers may be good at the former but not so good at the latter. By cleaning first with a good quality degreaser and then using a separate BS EN 1276 approved disinfectant at high dilutions in the second stage, means that the FBO gains excellent cleaning and disinfection results at the best in-use costs. For high dilutions to be achieved, a chemical dosing station is required so metered dosed chemicals can be vended without variation. It is our opinion that using two separate clearly identifiable products in the two stage process is the right process to adopt and perhaps the days of relying on one core sanitiser to do the job are diminishing. It should be noted however if the same sanitiser is used twice it will adhere to the FSA Guidance.

RP Adam has published a detailed series of "Food Safety and Disinfection” articles which can be viewed as a composite E-Book PDF download on their blog at www.thearpalgroupblog.com.

It should be noted that with the impending Biocidal Products Directive (BPR) many disinfectants within the food sector will not be supported and registered and therefore will be removed from sale, so it is important that the distributor and the FBO press their selected chemical manufacturer to ensure that the future availability of their disinfectant portfolio is going to be preserved and enhanced under BPR.