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Time to dish the dirt

08 July 2015

Food hygiene and safety have never had a higher profile. Yet too many kitchens are still harbouring a dirty secret, says James White, managing director of Denis Rawlins, as he calls on chefs to ‘Chop the Mop’.

It’s a constant battle in a pressure-cooker environment. Apart from working against the clock to keep customers fed and satisfied, there is also the daily struggle to keep commercial kitchens and food preparation areas clean and safe.

With raw and cooked ingredients and so many touch points – from work surfaces and utensils, to sink taps and fridge handles – the risk of cross-contamination is ever-present. Any professional establishment will have procedures to prevent this. But it’s worth focusing on one front where the battle for high standards of hygiene is often lost – the floor.

Danger underfoot 

When it comes to commercial kitchen cleaning, floors play a more critical role than many realise in food safety and hygiene. Shoes track dirt and microbes from other areas, including toilets and washrooms, into cleaned areas. Kitchens generate greasy soils that coat floor tiles. In this warm and damp environment bacteria multiply. So floors that look clean can end up harbouring a stomach-churning mix of microbes.

Studies show that floors can become reservoirs of health-threatening pathogens, and staff have many direct and indirect contacts with floors every day. This may be tying a trailing shoe lace, picking up a dropped utensil, gathering an electrical cord from the floor or lifting a carton of food stored there.

It is not just diners that are put at risk. Wet and greasy floors are treacherous underfoot for staff working amid potentially dangerous equipment. So proper floor care is essential to protect food hygiene and the safety of kitchen staff. A common problem is that staff use the wrong weapons to fight contamination. 


Traditional mopping 

Our opinion at Denis Rawlins is that traditional mopping is more effective at spreading soil than removing it. Even if buckets of cleaning solution are changed frequently, and mop heads are regularly cleaned and disinfected, mopping returns soils to the floor. Yet despite increased awareness of food hygiene this method continues.

Chefs and kitchen managers understand the importance of testing temperatures of cooked food, and when mistakes are made, how microbiological testing is used to trace the source of food poisoning. We also believe in a science-based approach. At Denis Rawlins we have compared and tested a variety of cleaning methods and machines to establish what really works. This has become far easier – for custodians of food hygiene too – with ATP meters that measure the universal (adenosine triphosphate) marker for animal, bacterial and mould cells.


Cleaning systems

Independent scientists have confirmed our experience that cleaning systems combining precise chemical application, pressure washing, and wet vacuuming to remove soils are many times more effective at eliminating bacterial contamination than mopping – either with traditional or microfibre mop heads. It is also far more efficient, taking between a half and a third of the time, so the cost of the equipment can be recouped in labour and productivity savings.

Furthermore, this form of hygienic cleaning is within reach of even the smallest of establishments. A cleaning team can transition in stages first to more hygienic mopping – with the aid of a trolley bucket that ensures only clean solution goes on the floor – to a self-contained system with wet vacuuming capability. In studies this ‘crossover’ system was shown to reduce bacteria levels on a test floor by 99%. Microfibre mopping achieved a 51% reduction. Furthermore, bacteria plates used in the test revealed that mopping dragged E. coli back into clean areas, reducing the mop’s overall effectiveness to 24%.

Unlike mopping, this deep cleaning technology removes the stubborn build-up of grease and toxins in grout lines, crevices and corners. Meanwhile the slip risk on floors, that would be left wet after mopping, is avoided as vacuuming of the rinsing solution leave surfaces virtually dry.

So we invite chefs and kitchen staff, so adept with dicing knives and cleavers, to ‘Chop the Mop’ – join our campaign and strike a blow for truly hygienic cleaning.