With food safety regulations only getting more stringent, applying the best practices and the right products to cleaning and sanitising in kitchens is paramount.
Of late we’ve seen several food establishments across the GCC region shutdown due to the lack of proper kitchen hygiene and food safety. It was recently reported that around 45 per cent of Dubai’s shawarma stands will be shut down for failure to adhere to regulations related to space, equipment and storage requirements in the given time period. This only goes to show how much more stringent laws will continue to get on the topic of food hygiene. Clean Middle East speaks to leading industry players about the key factors of optimum kitchen hygiene.
The importance of kitchen hygiene
An unhygienic kitchen is more likely to attract microorganisms and pests that attack food supplies and feed on the environment. The basic requirement for any kitchen should include being HACCP, GMP and ISO 22000 certifications.All kitchens must be cleaned and then disinfected - cleaning removes grease, food residues and dirt, while disinfecting kills microorganisms. Apart from constant contact with food and surfaces is unavoidable in any kitchen. Kitchen staff must wash their hands thoroughly before food preparation and after cleaning up. They must understand the risks of cross-contamination, food poisoning and their prevention. Chemicals used for cleaning and disinfection must be food grade (not contaminate the food) and should have no fragrance.
Given that the GCC region has diverse visitors from different cultures and standards of hygiene, the UAE and other GCC governments have done a commendable job in monitoring and maintaining hygiene standards in kitchens. Rafael Sanjurjo Lopez, Regional General Manager, Blue, states, “The Middle East cleaning and hygiene industry is set to grow a staggering 275 per cent by the year 2020. By 2020, over 19,000 food establishments are expected to be up and running, with majority of them having a mini or large kitchen.” This only makes it more important that laws are laid down and followed.
Does size matter?
Kitchen hygiene differs with the type of establishment and food being delivered – from a central food production unit dealing with high risk foods to a bakery supplying fresh bread, each establishment requires a dedicated range of cleaning chemicals and tools. While the rules for cleaning, disinfection and hand hygiene may remain the same, the scale differs with size and type. Kitchen extraction systems cleaning may vary in frequency - high cooking volume outlets are required to clean their kitchen systems on a monthly basis whereas smaller outlets can do their preventive cleaning twice a year. Needless to say, the importance is on maintaining a fixed schedule to prevent any mishaps in food safety.
Binu Sivan, Senior Sales Manager, Kitchenmaster, says, “It is better to have a small quantity of a high quality product as opposed to several low-quality products. As a result, we advise customers to use one product for all food surfaces and an additional product for heavy grease areas such as floors, dish wash detergent and rinse aid, hand soap and an oven cleaner. We plan this on a colour-coded hygiene chart, which is quick and easy to use in all food premises.”
Supplier support and training
Most clients follow and adapt to international hygiene standards in order to maintain and serve quality food. Stick to the supplier’s cleaning schedule ensures excellent results. Before setting up a cleaning schedule, suppliers carry out a site survey. Joseph Mundackal, Managing Director, Bio Dubai, says, “This is done to establish the cleaning requirements for the operations concerned because every site is different and requires different chemicals, tools and cleaning programmes. This will also confirm whether they require a sanitizer or whether a fragrance is allowed or required. Once all this has been analysed, the correct cleaning programme can be written.”
Lopez adds, “An effective cleaning and maintenance programme helps identify problems before they occur and avoids repairs and mishaps – not to mention expensive product recalls. The programmes should be documented, including the dates and times of scheduled visits, copies of cleaning/maintenance reports and any follow-up action taken.”
An effective cleaning schedule is dictated by the type of food establishment. “If it is a high volume, heavy-duty frying outlet (serving burgers/grilled food), then we recommend monthly cleaning of the kitchen extraction systems. Electrostatic filters and ecology units need to be cleaned twice a month. The minimum subscribed cleaning standard (as per Dubai Municipality) for any food establishment, is quarterly cleaning for kitchen extraction systems and hoods,” Lopez continues.
A kitchen can have the best chemicals and tools but if the staff is not trained correctly, the desired results can never be achieved. Most, if not all, suppliers train their customers in application, dilution, storage, COSHH and first aid. Other aspects include the nature of job assigned, previous experience, qualification level, statuary requirements and nature of hazards present in the particular area along with literacy level.
“At Kitchenmaster,” as Sivan explains, “The number of staff to train is first assessed. It sometimes works best to train all the staff together; however, the bigger the staff, the better it is to divide them into sections to ensure efficient training. Training must be done before the product are used. The main management is also trained so that the manager can efficiently monitor and assist the staff in the right applications.” Kitchenmaster uses visual aids as far as possible; it also provides the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and safety manuals. The kitchen hygiene charts, which are colour coded, are also made easy to follow.
The goal of any green cleaning and high performance cleaning programme is to minimise exposure of kitchen users and maintenance personnel to potentially hazardous chemical, biological and particle contaminants, which may adversely impact the food production, air quality, health, building and systems, and the environment, and to balance these needs with the cost and quality of the managed systems to provide a sustainable approach to cleaning and equipment maintenance.
Mundackal informs that Zenith Hygiene provides a range of sanitisers that conform to microbiological tests and are non-tainting; these are independently validated to comply with recognized standards. With an ISO 14001 environment management system for its manufacturing facility, Zenith Hygiene is committed to working with environmentally responsible customers and supplies a bio-range of products based on natural, sustainable, low-impact raw materials.
Blue, on the other hand, promotes UAE-made products that adhere to Dubai Municipality’s standards of cleaning, and subscribes to KLEANZ range of products, in particular the stove and oven specialist cleaner. The company has of late also started using bio-organic products, which works as, if not more, effectively by using a Bio-Organic Catalyst made from vegetable extracts. The company also adopts general strategies for sustainable cleaning.
Sivan adds, “We comply with all legislation and environmental policies. Our surfactants are biodegradable; all products are phosphate-free unless they are absolutely necessary and are present for a specific purpose. The British Association for Chemical Specialities (BACS) agrees with this reasoning. Since the 1980’s Kitchenmaster have been pro-actively replacing certain raw materials with more acceptable alternatives.”
While this article merely skims the surface of kitchen hygiene and its practices and products, the biggest take away from it is the kind of practices, support and training required in the industry to ensure the best possible kitchen hygiene and food safety standards in the region.
CASE STUDY – Abela & Co.
Raseena Pazhanthotta, Food Safety Manager, and Nancy Nouaimeh, Asst. Vice President- Quality, Safety & Performance Excellence, Abela & Co., highlight the company’s high standards in cleanliness and hygiene in its everyday operations.
Founded in 1967 in the UAE, Abela & Co has firmly established itself as one of the leading food service management firms in the country. Due to celebrate its 50th year in 2017 and headquartered in Dubai, it serves over 120 prestigious local and international clients across an array of industries. With four central state-of-the-art kitchens strategically located across the UAE, Abela & Co produces over 100,000 meals each day. The daily average from the four main kitchens is in excess of 50,000 meals per day; the remaining 50,000 is through the numerous satellite kitchens operated by Abela & Co.
Each kitchen is a mixed-use facility, incorporating receiving, storage, preparation, processing and dispatch. It is responsible for the preparation and daily dispatch of multi-ethnic meals to various sectors. We believe that a clean and tidy environment is the cornerstone of a positive food safety culture. Our strict hygiene and cleanliness include the employee and work area hygiene. This culture is presented to new employees through orientation sessions. Apart from group orientation programmes, we provide personalised one-on-one training.
Time, manpower, products
We operate 365 days a year, and nearly 15 per cent of our workforce is employed within the stewarding (cleaning) division. To clean all kitchen facilities, Abela & Co uses top, industrial-grade approved chemicals from major global players. These must be tested and pass the necessary government quality-control measures. Apart from detergents, we also use eco-friendly degreasers, drain cleaners, decarbonizes, etc.
The cleaning schedule involves the team leader enlisting the equipment that needs to be cleaned at that point of time in operation and the frequency through a standard operating procedure. We also send a periodical detailed cleaning schedule for large equipment that we use in collaboration with our in-house engineering team to ensure that it is maintained regularly. All these activities are well documented and communicated to the relevant managers. We also use ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate – a method to check organic content of food particle or bacteria on cleaned surfaces) swabbing to monitor the effectiveness of cleaning and disinfection. The results are immediate and the findings motivate our employees and ensures that we can act immediately should any issues be identified.
Our product suppliers conduct regular training sessions with our new stewarding employees for them to gain a thorough understanding of the application and types of chemicals. Whenever there are minor staff changes, the team leader or Person- In-Charge is responsible for educating and briefing employees about the chemicals, etc. Abela & Co has cultivated a ‘buddy system’ in all our operation departments to ensure that everyone takes an active role in teaching and learning. Senior staff members have taken on mentorship roles. As a benchmark, we ensure that at least 50 per cent of our team members assigned to the stewarding section are directly trained by our supplier, and conduct one-off training sessions to keep them abreast on the latest in industrial cleaning. Our assigned stewarding team is also trained on the basics of food hygiene for better understanding of their role and the impact that it has.
Cleaning chemicals storage
We have dedicated areas for the bulk storage of chemicals with controlled access. The in-use materials are mainly dispensed through hydromixing dispenser units ensuring that only diluted chemicals at a ‘ready-to-use’ stage are deployed to food handling areas. Moreover, the deep /bulk cleaning times are scheduled after the preparation of food for each service. This ensures minimal or no food handling activity during the cleaning process. The only area where chemicals can come in contact with other chemicals is intermittent cleaning, for which we use adequately diluted solutions and our employees are well trained to use them in the safe manner.
Also, our HACCP certification of over 11 years is a strict yardstick that measures and controls our process from receiving of raw material to the service stage. Our Food Safety Management System, certified for over three years against ISO 22000:2005 standard, strengthens our internal auditing system and provides assurance that all our systems are coherent and deployed.
Waste management and environment policies Abela & Co is an active and responsible participant in the local community; we were awarded the CSR Label in 2012. Our partnership with Lootah Biofuel over the last four years involves all used cooking oil being collected and sent to a recycling plant, where the waste oil is processed and transformed into biofuel, which fuels some of our vehicles. We work with Emirates Environmental Group to collect all recyclable waste. Furthermore, the chemicals that we use at our facilities are by large eco-friendly, and approved by the local government authorities and use eco-safe diluents.