September is food safety month, and the ideal time to review practices in your restaurant.
According to the National Restaurant Association, a single outbreak of foodborne illness can cost a restaurant approximately $75,000. While we all intuitively know the importance of water in fighting foodborne illness, we may not make the connection to proper plumbing and fixtures.
T&S Brass and Bronze Works, a leading manufacturer of commercial kitchen plumbing equipment and fixtures based in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, offers the following insight on how restaurants’ plumbing choices impact food safety.
- Restaurants must have hot and cold running water at proper temperatures and pressure. It seems like a given, but even a broken valve at a hand sink or an undersized hot water heater can contribute to problems, including health code violations and insufficient hot water supply.
- Hand washing is vital to food safety. Restaurants should install hand sinks in various locations around the kitchen to encourage frequent hand washing. It is also important that hand sinks and not prep sinks are used for this purpose, to prevent cross-contamination.
- Sensor faucets eliminate the need for touching handles and valves, reducing the risk of cross-contamination.
- For those areas that require handled faucets, such as pot fillers and prep sinks, faucets treated with antimicrobial material or even pedal-operated sinks greatly improve kitchen hygiene.
- All fruits and vegetables should be washed with clear running water in a designated produce- or ware-washing sink. All produce, even organic, can have dirt, pathogens and pesticides on its exterior. Most fruits and some vegetables are served raw, either in salads or whole, so harmful contaminants are not killed during cooking. It’s also important to make sure that the sinks have been sanitized to avoid the potential for cross-contamination.Restaurants should test frequently for leaking pipes that could allow waste matter or contaminated water to hit the floor.
- Because it can contain waste and other contaminants washed from other foods and plates, water backing up into sinks is another area of concern. Vacuum breakers and backflow valves prevent contaminated water from flowing back up into a hose, commercial dishwasher line, or pre-rinse unit and into the potable water.
- Because backflow and clogs are often caused by grease and food particles being put down the drain, restaurants should encourage employees to thoroughly empty plates before placing them in the sink and to use strainers as much as possible. Waste drain valves can help because they include strainers and help catch debris. They also allow for snaking should a clog occur.