This critical step can stop the spread of diseases and protect a restaurant's reputation.

There are many factors to consider when creating a great dining experience, but what are those that matter most to your guests? According to research conducted by Mintel, cleanliness ranks at the top of the list. In fact, 96 percent of survey respondents said that cleanliness was the most important factor they consider when choosing where to dine.

Cleanliness is also a critical aspect of your restaurant’s food safety program. From hand hygiene, to food preparation, to food handling, it can be difficult to focus on all areas at all times. In this article, we focus on one facet of food safety, surface sanitizing and cleaning.

According to the FDA Food Code, contaminated equipment, such as cutting boards and food preparation surfaces, is one of the five major risk factors that contributes to foodborne illness. The Food Code goes on to state in detail the requirements to sanitize and clean equipment and food contact surfaces in food establishments.

Yet, the Food Code does not mandate that a specific sanitizer or cleaner be used, so it can be confusing as to which types of sanitizers and cleaners restaurants should be using. With so many products available, it can be difficult to select a product that best fits the needs of your restaurant. Yet, there is a way to simplify this process, by focusing on three key areas of consideration—product efficacy, product safety, and the product’s impact on the environment.

1. Product Efficacy

A surface sanitizer needs to effectively kill germs that can cause illness, especially those pathogens that are prevalent in the foodservice market, like Norovirus, Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli. This is why it is important to understand the power of the active ingredient in the sanitizer you are using and to make sure the product is designed to kill specific pathogens.

In addition, products on the market today have varying dwell times, or the length of time the surface must remain wet to kill the organism. In fact, some products also have varying sanitization times for different bacteria and viruses, and there are even different dwell times for non-food contact and food contact surface products. In a fast-paced restaurant environment, a product with a shorter dwell time can improve productivity.

When selecting a product for your restaurant, the following are some questions to consider when it comes to a product’s efficacy:

  • Does the product kill pathogens prevalent in foodborne illness outbreaks?
  • How quickly does this product kill these pathogens?
  • Will the surface remain wet long enough to meet the required kill times? Or, will you need to re-wet the surface to achieve the required kill times?
  • Is the product ready to use? Does it need to be diluted? Will my staff be able to quickly use the product and understand how to use it?

2. Product Safety

It is also critical to select a product that is designed for food contact surfaces with no rinse required and one that your employees are comfortable using, which could help to encourage higher compliance through more frequent use.

One other area of safety to consider is whether the product you are using gives off any harsh fumes that may irritate both employees and guests. You want to be sure you are using a product that safely eliminates illness-causing germs, not a product that has harsh fumes that can irritate the eyes, noses and throats of both employees and guests.

When looking for a surface sanitizer for your restaurant, ask the following questions:

  • Are there any precautionary statements on the product label, like “must wash hands after use,” or “hazardous to humans and domestic animals?”
  • Is the product approved for use on food contact surfaces, no rinse required? Or, does the product label require food contact surfaces to be rinsed with potable water after using the product?
  • Does the product contain harsh fumes that might irritate employees and guests?
  • Is the product compatible with the surfaces and equipment you plan to use it on?

3. Sustainability

Oftentimes, it is thought that a product that is good for the environment may be ineffective or not strong enough to kill all the germs in a foodservice environment. Today, new formulation technologies have been developed with both the environment and superior efficacy in mind.

  • When you look at a sanitizing product, consider the following:
  • What is its sustainability profile?
  • What ingredients are included in the product? Are any of those ingredients considered to be chemicals of concern?
  • Does the product hold any third-party certifications? For example, does it have EPA Design for the Environment (DfE) certification, which means the ingredients in the product are at the green end of the spectrum for its class as determined by the EPA?

There are numerous options out there when it comes to surface sanitizers and cleaners. Take the time to focus on the three key areas of efficacy, safety and sustainability, and you will walk away knowing you have selected the right one that is worry-free for your employees and guests. 

Expert Takes, Feature