Facilitating a Hygienic Kitchen
Hotel Business Review|September-October 2020
Hygiene doesn’t come on a platter, especially in the commercial kitchens

A number of elements must interact with each other seamlessly to produce the perfect recipe for a hygienic kitchen, which is a must for ensuring food safety in restaurants as well as guest satisfaction. Out of these multiple factors, two players in this process stand out – the importance of clean utensils and pest control. While cross-contamination through utensils is often neglected, pest infestation is a widely acknowledged and yet a difficult-to-control problem.

Clean Utensils to Reduce Contamination

If you want to reduce the risk of contamination in kitchens, keeping the knives or graters clean is absolutely essential as these cutting equipments can act as transmitters of harmful bacteria from one food item to another.

Produce that contain bacteria would contaminate other items through the continued use of knives or graters because the bacteria would latch on to the utensils and spread to the next item, according to a new study.

Unfortunately, many people are unaware that utensils and other surfaces can contribute to the spread of bacteria, said the study’s lead author Marilyn Erickson, an Associate Professor of Food Science and Technology at the University of Georgia in the US.

“Just knowing that utensils may lead to cross-contamination is important,” Erickson said. “With that knowledge, consumers are then more likely to make sure they wash them in between uses,” she observed.

Erickson has been researching produce for the past 10 years. Her past work has mainly focused on the fate of bacteria on produce when they are introduced to plants in the field during farming.

In 2013, she was the co-author on a study looking at the transfer of norovirus and hepatitis A between produce and common kitchen utensils. In that study, she found that cutting and grating increased the number of contaminated produce items when that utensil had first been used to process a contaminated item.

This study, published in the journal Food Microbiology, is similar in that it considers the influence that knives and graters have on the transfer of pathogenic bacteria to and from produce items. It is important to realise that these germs can spread in your kitchens as well.

While it is known that poor hygiene and improper food preparation practices can lead to food-borne illnesses, but considering what practices in the kitchen are more likely to lead to contamination has not been examined extensively. The study also found that certain fruits and vegetables spread pathogens to knives to different degrees.

“For items like tomatoes, we tended to have a higher contamination of the knives than when we cut strawberries,” Erickson said. “We don’t have a specific answer as to why there are differences between the different produce groups. But we do know that once a pathogen gets on the food, it’s difficult to remove,” she pointed out.

However, knives and graters are not the only utensils the commercial kitchen guests should be worried about. Brushes and peelers can also play a very important role on the transfer of dangerous kitchen bacteria, the experts said.

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