Clean and Sanitize to Stop Foodborne Illness


Cleaning a restaurant kitchen and its equipment can be a very time-consuming and difficult job. There are so many areas of a kitchen that need cleaning and at different frequencies. An ice machine, for example, won’t need to be cleaned as often as a deli slicer.

Cleaning and sanitizing are necessary for preventing the growth of harmful pathogens that can lead to foodborne illness. There are many outbreaks large and small tracked back to dirty equipment. Here are a few:

Cleaning Schedules

It’s important to set up cleaning schedules. Schedules should be made for monthly, weekly, and daily cleaning. The time period it takes for areas to accumulate food debris to sight and touch should determine how often something is cleaned. Here are some schedule examples:

  • Monthly: Hoods, ice machines, dry storage wire shelves
  • Weekly: Cooking grills, fryers, floors in low-traffic areas
  • Daily: All equipment on the line, including floors and shelves
  • Every 4 hours: working utensils, cutting boards, deli slicers, food-contact surfaces

What the FDA Food Code Requires

Let’s look at the food code. Section 4-6 goes into great detail about cleaning frequencies and standards of cleanliness. Section 4-6 begins like this:

4-601.11 Equipment, Food-Contact Surfaces, Nonfood-Contact Surfaces, and Utensils.

(A) Equipment food-contact surfaces and utensils shall be clean to sight and touch.

(B) The food-contact surfaces of cooking equipment and pans shall be kept free of encrusted grease deposits and other soil accumulations.

(C) Nonfood-contact surfaces of equipment shall be kept free of an accumulation of dust, dirt, food residue, and other debris.

Some key words we see here are “clean to sight and touch” and “free of an accumulation of dust, dirt, food residue.” When trying to determine when something should be cleaned, follow this standard.

Every part of a kitchen should be looked at. Commonly missed areas are the insides of unit door handles, the ceilings and shoots of ice machines, and the floor behind cooking equipment.

To read more on cleaning and sanitizing equipment in section 4-6 of the food code, go here:

2009 FDA Food Code: Cleaning of Equipment and Utensils

Cleaning vs. Sanitizing

What’s the difference between cleaning and sanitizing? Cleaning is merely removing dirt or soiled debris, but sanitizing is actually using heat or chemicals to reduce the number of disease-causing organisms on clean equipment. Based on these definitions, equipment must be cleaned first and then sanitized. This should be done with dish machines, sanitizer towels, and 3-compartment sinks.

Effective Sanitizers

Quaternary ammonia: This is very popular, but it loses its effectiveness quickly and it’s expensive. Also, quaternary ammonia has been found to not be effective against killing norovirus. The recommended amount is 200–400 ppm.

Chlorine: This is the most common sanitizer. Chlorine kills just about anything and lasts longer than quaternary ammonia. The recommended amount is 50–100 ppm.

Heat: Many mechanical dishwashers use high-temperature water to sanitize equipment. The actual contact temperature needs to reach at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit to be effective.

There are others such as iodine, but they aren’t widely used and not recommended. Find more information on sanitizers here: Cleaning & Sanitizing the Kitchen.

It’s important to understand that both cleaning and sanitizing are important, with the cleaning always done first. Cleaning schedules should be made for every area of a kitchen and all pieces of equipment in order to prevent the spread of illness-causing organisms. Make sure you are using an effective sanitizer and it’s kept at the proper concentration.

For more information on cleaning and sanitizing, read the 2009 Food Code or contact me at

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.