Friday, 1st December, 2017

Combating the spread of infection

Wash your hands often. A phrase often used and probably the simplest of hygiene requirements and potentially one of the most important. Awareness of basic hygiene, solid training and excellent routines are the best way to ensure health and hygiene is adhered to across your business, and essential to maintain a lawful business practice.

With insufficient hygiene practises hitting the headlines - with a sometimes devastating effect to a business’s reputation - the need for a strict and concise hygiene strategy is paramount.  Earlier this year BBC’s watchdog uncovered a high level of bacteria in ice machines from some of the UKs largest coffee chains, the bacteria -  commonly found in faeces – caused an unrelenting response on social media, an unfortunate result of poor hygiene –and in this case hand washing procedures. 

Ice machine manufacturer Hubbard Systems say that is ‘about time the industry cracked down on the poor hygiene practises that ultimately led to this issue.’  Technical and Aftercare Manager of Hubbard, Mark Stebbing’s says; “It’s not like we haven’t seen this before.  Every year for as long as I can remember the issue comes up. 

“And every year ice machine suppliers point out the simple measures that need to be taken to sort it out.  With all the information available, there is simply no excuse for poor hygiene.” 

The answer to this issue is a simple one, maintaining sanitary hand washing procedures, ensuring the machine is kept clean and using the correct utensils to handle the product – in this case a scoop or gloves.

The answer is simple

The simplicity of these remedies cannot be highlighted enough, and yet unfortunately some elements of foodservice still fall foul of basic, law driven procedures.  While the majority of food businesses – 94% – pass safety inspections, some operators still fail to meet adequate standards.  More than 100 businesses were successfully prosecuted in the year to April 2016, with penalties ranging from fines, bans and in the worst case scenario imprisonment.

The Food Standards Authority (FSA) is responsible for the development of food safety policy in the UK and the day-to-day enforcement of the associated legislation is carried out by local authorities.
Local authority environmental health departments (EHDs) and trading standards teams carry out food premise inspections and undertake relevant enforcement in line with their own policy. However, it is for Food Business Operators to ensure food is safe and is what it says it is and the appropriate food safety management systems are in place to manage the risks.

According to data released by the FSA take-away establishments continued to have the lowest rates of broad compliance among ‘restaurants and caterers’ last year.  Their findings revealed that the percentage of take-away premises which were broadly compliant in 2016/17 was 85% - an improvement from 82% in 2014/15 – lagging behind primary producers (99% compliance), transporters/distributors (96%) and retailers (94%). 

In July the FSA published a new paper; “Regulating Our Future: Why food regulation needs to change and how we are going to do it.”* The paper details the changes the FSA wants to make to build a modern, risk-based, proportionate, robust and resilient system.

Compulsory

Currently businesses in Wales and Northern Ireland are legally required to display their food hygiene ratings as awarded by the FSA.  However, in England, businesses currently do not have to display the rating they have been awarded, with those scoring low marks much less likely to put them on show to customers – and public awareness of the scheme has been steadily rising.
The Local Government Association (LGA) - the body that represents councils in England – want to change this and they say that all food premises in England should be forced to display ‘scores on the doors’ making it compulsory.  After all while a good score can be worn like a badge of honour, a bad score is enough to scare away potential customers.

Ratings are awarded by Council environmental health teams who score food outlets from zero to five based on factors such as kitchen cleanliness, cooking methods and food management.

The LGA believes that businesses - including restaurants, pubs, cafes, takeaways, sandwich shops, supermarkets and delicatessens – that fail to comply should be fined or prosecuted.

After display was made mandatory in Wales, data from the FSA revealed a rapid increase in food hygiene standards. The scheme created enough incentive for establishments with a low rating to improve their hygiene standards. Meanwhile English establishments that scored below an acceptable level chose to simply not display their rating.

Paperless

Tir a Mor is a fish & chips shop situated in the heart of the historic market town of Llanrwst, North Wales, at the edge of the Snowdonia National Park an area where display of hygiene ratings is mandatory. Open seven days a week, Tir a Mor caters for local customers as well as tourists in its takeaway shop and adjoining 40-seater restaurant.

Tir a Mor is proud of its five-star hygiene rating and is keen to maintain that status. When planning the expansion of the restaurant, owner Wyn Williams wanted to optimise the way crucial food safety and hygiene tasks were managed. Getting rid of paper-based checklists was the first step. 

“We wanted to be a fish & chips shop that is completely paperless. Paper records are time consuming to fill and can get lost or dirty in the kitchen. What’s more, restaurants can lose their hygiene rating for mistakes in the records, not necessarily food safety failings, so it is a big risk,” Wyn says.

“We installed Checkit in March and it has completely changed the way we run things for the better.”

Checkit has assisted Wyn by removing uncertainty over daily compliance tasks and eliminate time consuming hygiene paperwork from kitchen processes.

For Wyn, one of the main problems with the paper-based way of managing compliance was the lack of real-time visibility over the daily tasks. In a busy shop, it was often challenging to make sure that staff completed the crucial compliance tasks on schedule.

“With the paper system, you can cheat and do whatever you want. Staff can forget to perform the checks and then fill in the records the next day. With Checkit you don’t have the option to cheat, you have to be honest.”

Once staff complete the jobs using the Checkit handset, Wyn checks the digital records to see if the work has actually been done.

“Staff know they have to do the jobs before they log in the results. I can see when a job is ticked off, so I can go check if it has actually been done and if I find out it hasn’t, staff will be disciplined. On the other hand, if they don’t fill in the handset by a set time, I will be notified and know for a fact that the jobs have not been done, and can address this.”

“It is important that there is no room for error or false records. For example, if staff are taking a temperature measurement and the result is outside the acceptable parameters, the system advises what action should be taken to ensure food is always safe.”

In Wales, where the display of hygiene ratings has been mandatory since 2013 – and the rating needs to be displayed on the door of the restaurant as well as any promotional material, such as takeaway menus. At Tir a Mor, Wyn has noticed that customers, especially tourists, often look out the hygiene rating before coming in.

“Having the best possible rating is absolutely paramount. I would be devastated if we didn’t get a five-star rating.

“We haven’t had an environmental health officer visit since installing Checkit, but now I am actually really looking forward to it.”

Contributors

• Richard Ebbs, Head of Brands, Nisbets Plc
• Food Standards Authority –Spokesperson
• Jon Edmond, European business development manager at Sani Professional
• Peter Littleton, Director at the Society of Food Hygiene (SOFHT) and Technical Director at Klenzan
• Wyn Williams, Owner,  Tir a Mor Fish & Chip Shop
• Emma Clark, Owner, Easy Glove

What measures should businesses in the food-to-go/QSR sector take to combat the spread of infection?

EasyGlove the UK agent for the patented Clean Hands® system that is used extensively across mainland Europe, say that hand hygiene plays an important part in helping combat the spread of infection in the food to go sector. In fast paced customer facing roles staff are quickly alternating between food and money and this is where the danger of spread of infection lies. Unfortunately hand washing facilities are not always readily available - especially where street food is involved - and can be time consuming when serving during busy periods.

“Businesses should pay particular attention to the training and recommended food handling practices of staff and identify what works best for their business,” says Emma Clark, Owner of EasyGlove. 

“For example some food items, such as pastries and hot dog buns, are too delicate or require manipulating to handle the product and this is simply not possible by the simple use of food tongs. Businesses look to the use of plastic gloves, which themselves can cause many problems.”

The FSA say that all food businesses must put in place procedures based on the Hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) principles to protect the consumer and ensure food is safe. This means they must identify food safety risks in the business and put in place measures to deal with or control those risks safely.

On top of this, good food hygiene is all about controlling harmful bacteria, which can cause serious illness. Where risks remain, consumers must be made aware via appropriate signage or labelling.

The four main things to remember for good hygiene are:

• Cross-contamination
• Cleaning
• Chilling
• Cooking

These are known as the 4 Cs. They will help you prevent the most common food safety problems. **

The phrase ‘Dirty Money’ may have different meanings for different people, but as far as microbiology is concerned have you ever thought about what else you are getting back along with your change when shopping?

“In reality, we shouldn’t be surprised that notes and coins are contaminated, our own hands are colonised by millions of bacteria and money is the most frequently passed item in the world,” says Emma. 

“The concern however grows when bacteria from our money comes into contact with our foods through cross-contamination.

HACCP

The HACCP guidelines for food operators state the need to wash hands before and after handling food items, but this can be difficult in a busy operation. Disposable gloves have become the go-to work around but often become a source of contamination by touching surfaces, cash registers, pens and money.

Emma explains; “How often have you watched a food server handle an item of food with a glove, only to moments later watch them give money or move on to another task such as cleaning with the same gloved hand before returning to serve food.

“Businesses must look to proper training in glove use or to companies such as EasyGlove who offer an innovative food handling solution, the Clean Hands® system which uses a specially designed magnetic glove and docking base to enable quick and easy use, and re use, of the glove for food handling, preventing cross contamination between food and money.”

Consistently excellent hygiene standards can only be achieved by cleaning and properly disinfecting areas, regularly. Maintaining a clean restaurant environment minimises the risk of food contamination.

Jon Edmond, European business development manager at Sani Professional “Hygiene should be tackled head-on in the food service journey, eliminating any unwanted bacteria right from the start. 

“Rather than re-using cloths and rags from table to table, revolutionary cleaning and disinfectant wipes by Sani Professional are now making hygiene issues, in any food preparation area, much easier to deal with as a fresh sheet is used each time.

Touchscreen technology

Touch-screen technology is providing foodservice companies with new ways to get consumers and staff interacting with their services, menus and products. Investing in this technology is providing them with the edge that consumers want. But dirty, unhygienic touchscreens can turn-off customers and reflect badly on the reputation of the restaurant.

These devices can be tough to clean and users want the surfaces they interact with to be both hygienic and easy-to-view. Numerous quick service restaurants and food services use these touchscreens on a daily basis to serve customers, but how clean really are these surfaces?

Quick service restaurants offer the ideal environment for cross-contamination due to volume-driven operations, self-service beverage, ice buckets and condiment stations and most significantly, orders being placed on touchscreens.

Swab tests, by consumer group Which?, have revealed thousands of germs living on touchscreens and up to 20-times as many bacteria were found these touchscreens than on a toilet seat. Research found these germs living on touchscreens are being left behind as user’s swipe the screens of devices. These bacteria can spread sickness bugs, which means both customers and employees are at risk.

Clean Screen wipes, by Sani Professional, are easy-to-use, super-fast drying and smear-free, eliminating all unwanted germs on these surfaces. Unlike other screen wipes on the market Clean Screen wipes are lint-free which means not only are they scratch free but will also not leave any unwanted fibres or dust on devices.

Using these wipes on a daily basis will keep the screes hygienically-clean, guests will be impressed and they are more likely to return if they are confident in cleanliness standards.

Jon Edmond, European business development manager at Sani Professional, says: “The touchscreen culture is also undeniably affecting hygiene standards.
“Research has found that one in five people do not wash their hands after visiting the toilet (according to data from Initial Hygiene).  Not only does this highlight why it’s so important for people to wash their hands before and after eating, it establishes why regular cleaning and sanitising of digital touchscreens – and having the correct tools to do so – is an essential requirement in the QSR industry.”

What are the potential implications for a business if it receives a poor food hygiene rating?

If you run a retail business that makes or prepares food, it will be inspected to make sure you are compliant with food law. The inspectors will be enforcement officers from your local authority (or district council in Northern Ireland).

An FSA spokesperson tells QuickBite; “When they think it is necessary, inspectors can take ‘enforcement action’, to protect the public. For example, they can:

•        inspect your records
•        take samples and photographs of food
•        write to you informally, asking you to put right any problems
•        detain or seize suspect foods

“They can also serve you with a legal notice, a breach of which would be a breach of the court.”

There are three main types of notice:

• ‘Hygiene improvement notice’ or ‘food labelling improvement notice’ – sets out certain things that you must do to comply, if your business is breaking the law.
• ‘Hygiene emergency prohibition notice’ – forbids the use of certain processes, premises or equipment and must be confirmed by a court.
• ‘Remedial action notice’ - forbids the use of certain processes, premises or equipment, or imposes conditions on how a process is carried out. It’s similar to a hygiene emergency prohibition notice, but it does not need to be confirmed by a court. (This type of notice applies to approved establishments only in England, and can be used for any food establishment in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.)

“It is a criminal offence not to comply with a notice once served,” say the FSA. 

“Inspectors can also recommend a prosecution, in serious cases. If a prosecution is successful, the court may forbid you from using certain processes, premises or equipment, or you could be prohibited from managing a food business. It could also lead to a fine or imprisonment.”

Jon Edmond adds; “We are in an age of consumer awareness and many people are aware that the dangerous bacteria present in quick service restaurants can cause illnesses. 

“Now more than ever, food service providers must ensure a five-star hygiene rating as the customer expects no less today. I’ve known people walk out of a restaurant if the star rating is any lower. No restaurant wants this, therefore hygiene should always be up-to-standard.”

With an abundance of open free information these days it is easy for individuals to check the food hygiene rating of a business, just checking ratings on food.gov.uk will provide the information quickly and easily from the comfort of home.

Emma agrees, she adds; “Daily we see articles cropping up about the latest high street restaurants with 0 out of 5 hygiene marks. Only recently an article was published outing two branches of Subway and a Marco Pierre White restaurant for their failed food safety tests.

“The impact of such articles can be huge with Environmental health consultant Ben Milligan
Stating “You’re only as strong as your weakest link”.  One low score can brandish an entire chain as failing in food hygiene standards.”

What equipment and products are available to help businesses combat the spread of infections?

The importance of an excellent cleaning and hygiene routine is paramount within the busy food to go sector and using the right cleaning products can have a huge impact on levels of hygiene.
Ensuring a busy food to go or fast food restaurant meets the highest standards of hygiene and sanitation, in line with ever stricter HACCP regulations, is not easy, so it is vital that top quality, high performing, commercial grade products are chosen. The Jantex Pro range from Nisbets offers a complete range of industrial strength commercial cleaning products that help cut through dirt, grease and germs - providing a deep, long lasting and professional clean.

“The Jantex Pro range includes great value, multipurpose sprays, degreasers, bleaches, glass cleaners, disinfectants and a range of powerful detergents, along with drain unblockers and oven cleaners, to ensure that all areas, including kitchen equipment and staff hand washing facilities, are efficiently maintained and fully sterilised,” says Richard Ebbs of Nisbets Plc, the UK’s leading mail order company for catering equipment and catering supplies.

A great example of a product from the range is Jantex Pro Kitchen Cleaner and Sanitiser which, with its fast acting formula, ensures food preparation and serving areas are sanitised within 30 seconds, helping to maintain high standards of hygiene in the busiest of commercial kitchens.

Richard adds; “Also available is the Jantex Pro Super Concentrated Multi Surface Cleaner, which has a super concentrated formula ideally suited to cleaning work tops and other hard surfaces, mirrors and practically any other surface.

“This formula can be used with the efficient Jantex Pro Autodose Ecoshot Dispenser System, which has a simple to use design that delivers a predetermined dose of between 5 to 30 ml of the desired chemical concentrate into a bottle, bucket or sink - ensuring no amount of the product is wasted - whilst the supplied wall cabinet for the sink dispenser version locks away 2 litre bottles, preventing tampering.

Used in conjunction with the Jantex range of colour coded spray bottles and refill bottles, health and safety standards are met with ease, and the risks of cross contamination across food preparation areas and different types of cleaning product are vastly reduced.

EasyGlove provide a food handling product called the Clean Hands® system designed to help combat the spread of infection and cross contamination between food and money. Using a specially designed magnetic wristband and docking base the Clean hands® glove can be easily worn and removed when switching between handling food and money. 

The glove after use remains open and ready for use again and again. The simple to use glove system provides a quick, hygienic and efficient alternative to traditional plastic and latex gloves and is also fully recyclable.

The Clean Hands® System from EasyGlove has been developed as a solution for cafes, sandwich bars, bakeries, street-food vendors, supermarkets, delis and food operators looking for a quick and hygienic way to serve food and handle money.  Quick, Hygienic, Cost Effective and Eco-friendly

Offering quick, hygienic, cost effective and eco-friendly benefits the Clean Hands System helps prevent cross contamination and streamlines potentially fiddly operations. The patented system uses magnets in the removable wristband and docking base to hold the glove in place. This allows for easy ‘slip-on / slip off’ of the glove.

The Society of Food Hygiene (SOFHT) runs a range of food hygiene training courses for food handlers of all levels.  Peter Littleton, Director at SOFHT and Technical Director of Klenzan - manufacturer of industrial hygiene solutions - assesses the key areas operators should consider with regard to cleaning and hygiene, and the importance of training in helping to combat the spread of infection in a QSR environment.

Effective cleaning regime

    Daily cleaning should include all food contact surfaces, display units, serving counters and tables using a two stage clean of detergent and disinfectant or a combined sanitiser which incorporates the properties of both a detergent and a disinfectant.

      Weekly cleaning should be fridges, chillers, ovens and fryers, underneath counters and units.

        Monthly, cleaning should focus on back of house equipment such as extraction hoods and filters, freezers, high levels and behind counters and units to avoid pest harbourage points.

        Inadequate cleaning will result in standard food safety risks of microbiological, chemical or allergen contamination of food as well as the quality risks of spoilage, meat species cross-contact and accidental transfer of animal proteins to vegetarian products.

        Cleaning materials

        To be fully compliant, the kitchen must be “cleaned and where necessary disinfected” – so as a minimum, suitable and sufficient cleaning chemicals to effectively clean all surfaces and equipment, should be present. According to the FSA’s advice, any product used as a disinfectant or biocide should comply with at least BS EN 1276 and where raw meats are involved, the sanitiser should be employed twice – once to clean and the second application as a disinfectant.

        Regarding equipment, this should be suitable and sufficient, easy to clean and designated to the task at hand (so no sharing of mops for toilets and food rooms).

        The importance of training

        Caterers must have food safety management procedures in place (eg safer food better business) and that the person who develops this has had adequate training. It’s good practice to ensure any new starters have an induction to understand the basic principles of food safety relevant to their role before they start work.  It is also ideal to record any training so you can show enforcement officers during their visits that you have implemented a training programme.

        What is the minimum and ideal level of training that all staff members should undertake?
        As a legal minimum, all food handlers must receive training commensurate with their duties and responsibilities – generally this is basic food hygiene training (Food Safety Level 1 or 2). As an ideal, all supervisory and management staff should receive higher level training at either level 3 or 4 food safety.

        In addition, all staff should receive training on allergen and pest awareness with an emphasis on asking customers if they have any food mediated allergenic reactions – a focus of the Anaphylaxis Campaign at present in its “ask the question” campaign to engender responsibility in the consumer to protect their own health.

        Biffa