Food-Contact Surfaces: What Lays Upon Them?

n restaurants, bars, schools, delis and other places where food is served, there exists many different surfaces with which food will come into contact. There are the obvious ones that you immediately think of when you hear the term food-contact surface, such as prep lines, cutting boards, food storage bins, counter tops and utensils. However, there are also many surfaces that you may not realize are food-contact surfaces. This holds true for anyone who is responsible for sanitizing such surfaces.

Uncommon Food-Contact Surfaces

A food-contact surface is typically thought of as a surface that only comes into direct contact with food through the course of preparation. However, it also includes any surface that food may drain, drip or splash on. When taking this into consideration, there may be quite a few additional surfaces that need frequent sanitization. Some of these include the insides of microwaves, refrigerators, serving trays, drink preparation areas, ice machines, food thermometers and more. If these areas are not sanitized often, it could potentially pose some very serious pathogen control issues, therefore causing health safety hazards.

The Importance of Frequent Sanitization

One major reason for frequent sanitization of food-contact surfaces is to inhibit the growth of microorganisms. Otherwise, infrequent cleaning allows bacteria to multiply and thrive. On some surfaces, this can result in a buildup of bio-film. This substance serves as a protective covering for an underlying layer of bacteria and can make cleaning, sanitization and disinfection more difficult all together.

However, the most important reason to sanitize with high frequency is the possibility of cross-contamination. Cross-contamination in food preparation poses a huge potential threat, not only for general health safety, but also for damage with reputation and credibility in restaurants, groceries and other food chains alike. For instance, if you were to use a knife to cut chicken on a cutting board and then use the same knife to cut lettuce without properly sanitizing it, all pathogens that were on that chicken have now came into contact with the lettuce.

Foodborne Illness

While the chicken will be cooked–thus eliminating a huge majority of those pathogens–the lettuce will not. This can cause foodborne illness, otherwise known as food poisoning. This is not just a problem for common food chains, but it can also pose a problem at home.

According to the CDC, these five pathogens resulted in the highest number of domestically acquired cases of foodborne illness that resulted in hospitalizations: Salmonella nontyphoidal, norovirus, Campylobacter spp., Toxoplasma gondii and E.coli (STEC) O157. In fact, it was E.coli O157 found on lettuce at the chain restaurant Taco Bell that caused a large, multi-state breakout in 2006.

To ensure the safety of your food, it is important that you follow the FDA and CDC guidelines on the cleaning and sanitization of food-contact surfaces. It is also important to decide what type of sanitizer fits your establishment best.

Click here to learn more about Selective Micro Technologies’ pure chlorine dioxide and how it can help you fight food pathogens.

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