Safe Facilities and Pest Management
One part of the food safety process that we haven’t discussed yet, is your premises and the equipment you have. In simple terms, the building in which you operate, and your equipment must be “fit for purpose”. In other words, can you safely store, prepare, cook and serve food.
Now you may be a large, multi-chain restaurant company, you may be a school, hospital, childcare, or senior living facility serving 10 to 1000 meals a day. You may be a food truck or a small deli, or you may be a huge sports facility serving 25,000 on a game day.
The point we are trying to make is that it does not matter what size or the complexity of your operation, you have a legal duty to ensure food safety. As a result, there are numerous laws that you need to comply with and you WILL be subject to premise inspections.
These inspections will be carried out by DOHIs and you need to be aware that you must allow them access at any reasonable hour. Failure to do so is an offense under Federal Food code ยง 8-402.11
Typically, operations included are:
- Food production facilities
- Direct to consumer,
- Quick Service Restaurants, (QSRs)
- Bars (serving food)
- Childcare Facilities
- Senior Living
- Food Trucks
- Temporary Units
- Charities and not-for-profit organizations (churches, youth groups etc.)
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY FIT-FOR-PURPOSE?
- Essential services needed for the operation, (water, gas, electric)
- Adequate restroom and washing facilities for the size of the operation
- Pest control measures in place, with a PCO appointed
- Suitable storage areas
- Sufficient lighting to ensure food safety and staff safety
- Adequate extraction systems
- External, pest-proof waste containers to allow for the safe storage and disposal of waste
Sufficient work surfaces to allow separate preparation of raw and cooked products to reduce the risks of cross-contamination.
- All internal surfaces including floors must be made from smooth washable materials. Examples are continuous floor covering, plastic/laminate cladding for walls, ceiling, and stainless-steel preparation areas.
Whilst the above may seem a lot to consider, in the main they are common sense. The design of your operation must be to help you prepare food safely, reduce the chances of bacterial contamination, allow for easy cleaning and make waste disposal risk-free. You also have to consider the welfare of your staff and not expose them to any unnecessary risks.
All of these are considered prerequisites and need to be in place for your Food Safety Management System to work properly.
In this chapter, we are going to run through the essentials to help you meet your legal requirements. As the manager, (PIC), take some time, step back, have a look at your operation, and check/tick off what you have in place and what could possibly be done to improve the operation.
We have talked about the Journey of Food. When designing a kitchen, the best way is to look at the journey of food from delivery to service. What design is going to make this journey as trouble-free and as risk-free as possible? What design elements can you put in place to protect the food, reduce the risks of cross-contamination, ensure your staff can work easily and safely.
The first point we are going to look at is Segregated/Zoned Areas
Segregated, (Zoned), Areas
This is an important point to consider.
As the manager, again, step back and watch the flow of food and people through your operation at peak times. As we have mentioned, we are the worst contaminators of food and you need to minimize how often people cross paths in a typical service. This is where accidents and cross-contamination can happen.
- Watch the flow of food; does anyone have to cross the cooking or assembly areas to get any raw food from storage?
- Where is food waste brought back from service disposed of?
- Where is the washing of dishes, silverware carried out?
- Do staff have to cross preparation or assembly points to get to waste or cleaning?
- Do deliveries have to come through the kitchen area to get to storage?
- What about packaging waste?
“Zoning” is designing a kitchen to match the flow of food without having to cross areas that could be a cross-contamination danger.
Think of the flow as Delivery – Storage – Preparation – Cook – Assemble – Service – Waste
Even in the smallest of operations, you can design the kitchen to clearly separate areas for preparation/raw foods, and cooked/ready-to-eat foods.
An additional non, food safety benefit from looking at the flow of food is that done correctly it will also help speed up the production of food, remove bottlenecks, reduce food wastage and ultimately, improve profitability.
Most food contact surfaces are dangerous areas as the chance of cross-contamination is high.
Traditionally stainless steel is used in most kitchens. While it is not an actual legal requirement, 99+% of kitchens use this material. It is relatively low cost and is manufactured to again, be “fit for purpose”.
The main benefit is that the material is smooth, cleanable, non-absorbent, and non-toxic. It is easy to clean and easy to see if damaged. The important point when designing the preparation, cook, and assembly areas is that there are no gaps that can allow bacteria or food debris to build up.
As the manager, you also need to be aware of the risks associated with cracked, scratched, or chipped surfaces. The best way to visualize this is to imagine that a deep scratch on a work surface is the size of the Grand Canyon to bacteria. These scratches or cuts can be difficult to fully clean and you then have the risk of cross-contamination.
Any operation has many utensils, knives, cut boards, whisks, stirring spoons, crockery, silverware, glassware to name but a few. Any damaged utensils can harbor bacteria and also be a danger to personal safety. Staff must be trained to look for and report any damaged utensils.
Utensils & Dipping Wells
Where frozen desserts are being portioned and dispensed, dipping wells with running water should be provided to store dispensing utensils such as ice cream scoops.
Most operations have a lot of equipment; ovens, mechanical ventilation, refrigerators, freezers to name a few. They are expensive pieces of equipment and you need to choose carefully.
- Do you have the right amount of equipment, especially cold storage, to match your peak service demands?
- Is it a well-known brand?
- Is it reliable?
- Will it fit within your workflow design?
There are many factors you will need to consider.
In addition, it is recommended that you should choose equipment for your food establishment that complies with the design and construction standards of the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), www.nsf.org.
The NSF’s Manual on Sanitation Aspects of Installation of Food Service Equipment is an excellent reference.
Equipment installation requirements and recommendations (to ensure proper spacing and sealing to allow for adequate and easy cleaning) include:
- Whenever possible, equipment should be mounted on castors or wheels to facilitate easy moving, cleaning and provide flexibility of operation.
- Floor-mounted equipment should be sealed to the floor around the entire perimeter of the equipment or elevated on legs to provide at least six inches of clearance between the floor and equipment.
- Spacing between and behind equipment should be sufficient to permit cleaning.
- Equipment, including ice makers and ice storage bins, should NOT be located under exposed or unprotected sewer lines, condensation lines, open stairwells, or other sources of contamination.
- Refrigeration units must have numerically scaled thermometers accurate to + or – 2°F with the sensor located to measure air temperature in the warmest part of the unit.
- Walk-in units should contain shatterproof bulbs providing adequate light.
- Walk-in units should have condensation lines drain into the sewage system via an air break located outside the unit.
Portability of Equipment for Cleaning
As part of your design, you need to think about some of the heavier types of equipment you have and how easy is it to clean under or behind. These are dangerous areas as a lot of food debris can quickly build up behind ovens, under refrigerators, at the back of prep areas, and in dry goods storage. As a result, the risks from bacterial multiplication and pest contamination can be high.
Many large items such as refrigerators are on wheels and can be moved. If items are too bulky or fixed in place, you must leave a clearance of at least 6 inches, to allow for easy access for cleaning. This is an area that a DOHI will look at!
Dishwashers are considered an essential piece of equipment for even the smallest of kitchens. You need to purchase a machine that matches the size of your operation, to avoid a build-up of dirty plates, silverware, pans, utensils, etc. at peak times, as this can become a cross-contamination issue.
When locating the dishwasher, try to avoid placing the machine where staff has to cross preparation, cooking, assembly areas with dirty plates, etc.
Three Compartment Sinks
A regular feature of most if not all kitchens. Designed for the manual cleaning and sanitization of various items such as pots and pans.
As with a dishwasher, make sure they are located away from food preparation areas and are large enough to cope with the peak time demands of your operation.
Your operation MUST have separate hand washing sinks with hot & cold running water. There must also be soap, drying facilities, and a garbage container for disposable towels.
There must be enough handwashing stations to match the size of your operation.
They are required in:
- Food prep areas, service areas, and dishwashing areas
An important point is don’t use handwashing sinks for anything else. Do not prep food, wash equipment, or dump dirty water in them. Staff must have easy and unobstructed access to handwashing facilities.
Simply put, maintenance of equipment is good for food safety and good for business!
Machines that operate properly are safer and less prone to breakdown. And “Murphy’s Law” means that equipment will always break down when you need it most!
As part of your role, you need to educate staff on the reasons why maintenance is required, when and how they should report it. They will probably be using the machinery the most and need to be able to communicate when they have concerns.
Daily Checks – These should be daily and ongoing. Staff needs to check for signs of visible wear, or damage to equipment. For example the integrity of guards, safety locks, electrical flex, plug, switches, and sockets. In addition, is the piece of equipment working as well as usual? Is the slicer becoming blunt, does the hand mixer or blender periodically cut out?
Staff should be trained in what to look for, what needs inspection, and how to report faults.
Planned Maintenance – Work with your equipment supplier to agree on a set timeframe for maintenance. If the supplier does not carry out the maintenance, you need a licensed, qualified service provider. Regular servicing will extend the lifetime of equipment and ultimately cost you less.
Breakdown Maintenance – If you have an agreed service contract with a provider that regularly carries out all your maintenance, then as part of the agreement, ensure that they have a quick call-out option to respond to unforeseen breakdowns.
Equipment – Staff Training
As we have mentioned, there are some pretty serious and dangerous types of equipment in the average food operation. These can vary from hand-held blenders to band saws, slicers, and mixers.
As the manager, your role is to ensure that anyone using this type of equipment is adequately trained before they are allowed to use it.
Training is also required for dismantling and cleaning of equipment. Most accidents occur at this stage. Just think how sharp the blades of a slicer can be.
A recent survey found that new, untrained staff are 2.5 times more likely to be injured.
Correct training reduces the likelihood of an accident and improves the food safety chain via correct cleaning.
Utilities & Facilities
WATER & PLUMBLING
Water is a basic essential that you need to have. Often you will hear the term, ‘potable’ water. Essentially, that means clean, freshwater that is safe to drink. In most locations, these will be mains supplied by one of the utility companies. If you have a food truck or mobile location, the water can be stored in food-grade containers, but it first must be gained from the mains supplied location.
In addition to getting potable water to the location, you must also ensure that there is adequate provision for disposal of dirty water (drainage to a mains sewer). The potable water system must also be installed to prevent the possibility of backflow.
Backflow prevention devices (below) protect the potable water from contamination. Backflow may occur in two ways, back-pressure, and back-siphonage. Back-pressure occurs when increased pressure from the non-potable pipes pushes unclean water into the potable water lines. Back-siphonage occurs when the pressure on the potable lines is decreased, and non-potable water is siphoned into the potable water supply.
Types of Backflow Prevention Devices
An air gap is the only completely reliable backflow prevention device. It is an unobstructed, vertical distance through the air separating an inlet of potable water from a potentially contaminated source. The length of the air gap, when used, must be at least twice the distance of the diameter of the water supply inlet, but not less than 1 inch. In the case of a culinary sink, the air gap is simply the distance from the end of the faucet (inlet) to the sink’s flood-level rim.
Atmospheric Vacuum Breakers
Where potable water lines are connected directly to equipment, devices must be installed to prevent backflow. In the case of an ice or coffee machine, an atmospheric vacuum breaker must be installed. These devices prevent backflow caused by backpressure or back-siphonage in the plumbing system.
Double-Vented Check Valve
This device is used on soda carbonators to prevent the backflow of carbonated water into water supply pipes. A soda carbonator works by allowing the mixture of carbon dioxide gas with water and syrup to produce the soda. Since carbonated water is acidic, if allowed into water supply pipes it will erode the metal of these pipes and can cause metal poisoning. The double-vented check valve works by allowing the carbon dioxide to escape into the air during a backflow. In a soda system where the double-vented check valve is used, it must be available for inspection.
Fixtures and equipment requiring back-flow(back-siphonage) prevention:
- Steam tables
- Water closets
- Potato peelers
- Ice machines
- Garbage grinders
- Protecting Sinks and Other Fixtures
The backup of water from the sewer system and waste lines in food preparation or food storage area is a serious public health hazard. This water contains contaminants and may cause illness. A faulty sewage disposal system or the presence of sewage on the floors, fixtures or food may result in the immediate closure of a food establishment.
Grease interceptors shall be installed in waste lines that may receive grease from non-residential direct and indirect dischargers, including but not limited to those leading from pot wash sinks, woks, soup or stock kettles, food scrap sinks, scullery sinks, meat and/or poultry and/or fish preparation sinks, floor drains, automatic dishwashers, scraper sinks, or other similar plumbing fixtures, in all restaurants, kitchens, cafeterias, clubs, butcher shops, slaughterhouses, fish markets, supermarket food processing areas, delicatessens, or other non-residential establishments where grease may be introduced into the drainage system.
Fats, Oils, and Grease are prohibited from being discharged into the public sewer in order to prevent obstruction of sewer pipes and sewer backups. When in doubt contact your DOH.
As with water, gas and electricity are what we consider essential services. Again, these will be provided by the utility companies.
Gas pipes should be secure, of sturdy construction, with an easy-to-access cut-off point. The pipes should also be included in your Monthly Deep Clean to avoid a build-up of grease and dirt.
Electricity should only be installed by a qualified electrician with a visible, easy-to-access cut-off point. In addition, kitchens traditionally contain a lot of moisture, (water), from the cooking stages and it is recommended that you use commercial switches and fittings that are “fit for purpose”.
A well-lit kitchen is extremely important both for food safety and the safety of staff. There are a lot of sharp objects in a kitchen, knives for example, and some dangerous machinery such as slicers and grinders. Staff needs to be able to work quickly and safely. It also allows for easier spotting of mistakes such as meat juices on a preparation table, physical contamination such as bandages, and pest sighting.
In addition, lighting should be screened to prevent glass hazards. For example, a bulb exploding and falling onto the prep or cook areas, (physical hazard).
The Health Code requires 540 Lux (50-foot candles) of lighting at surfaces where food workers are preparing and processing food or using utensils or equipment such as knives, slicers, grinders, or saws.
Floors & Walls
Walls and floors should be easy to clean non-absorbent, non-toxic, and easy to inspect for hazards such as flaking paint or cracked tiles. Of particular importance, the kitchen needs to be “fit for purpose”. Kitchens take a lot of abuse in a normal working day and the floors and walls need to be hard-wearing, resistant to water, grease, heat, chemicals, and impact.
One area that should be considered is the type of flooring you use. Commercial grade linoleum or tile with sealed and cove molding, instead of skirting boards are strongly recommended as they will stand up to heavy use and more importantly, will be easier to clean.
As with walls, ceilings need to be in good condition to reduce the risks of physical hazards (flaking paint, plasterboard, nails), falling onto food and work surfaces.
If you have a suspended ceiling, it needs to be accessible for inspection as pests, especially flies and mice love the protection and heat.
A light-colored ceiling is best to help increase the lighting in the kitchen and it is easier to notice when it becomes dirty.
A kitchen is a hot environment with high levels of moisture. At peak service they can be unbearable, staff naturally perspire, tempers rise, and mistakes happen as a result.
You must have adequate ventilation, usually via mechanical methods such as extractors. Make sure you have enough mechanical extraction to match the needs of your kitchen at peak times.
Windows & Doors
Leaving doors and windows open to increase ventilation can be an added benefit, however, you risk allowing access to pests. Ideally, you should view doors and windows as a barrier to pest access before considering using them for ventilation.
If you do prefer to leave doors or windows open to aid ventilation, they must be properly screened to stop pests. Fit a screen or mesh over opening windows and use an air curtain or well-fitting mesh doors.
You also need to check with your DOHI as states do vary in their requirements.
Staff Changing Area
You need to have a dedicated changing area that allows staff to securely store their outdoor clothing and personal items. The use of lockers is recommended. This area will help to “break the chain” between outdoor clothing, and cross-contamination issues.
Toilet & Washing Facilities
You must provide adequate restroom and hand washing facilities to match the size of your operation. Hand-washing facilities and soap MUST be provided in the toilet area.
A hand-washing sink must also be provided in the food preparation area, separate from any pot washing facilities. This is a major violation point to a DOHI and has the potential to close down your operation.
We have covered this in a separate chapter, however, as a reminder, storage needs to be “fit for purpose,” and large enough to meet the needs of your operation.
A particular danger area is a dry storage. It needs to be light, free from physical hazards such as flaking paint, well ventilated, easy to clean, and easy to check for pest contamination. If the dry store has too many products stored, all the above can be difficult to maintain.
It may be that you need to re-examine your ordering pattern. Can you receive smaller more often deliveries? If possible, do you need to look at increasing the size of storage?
Facility & Utility Emergencies
As the manager, you must have procedures in place to protect food safety, your staff, and your customers, if there is a problem with your facility or utilities. This will cover typical emergencies such as fire, flooding, sewage backups, or electrical outages.
The most common tend to be an electrical outage, flooding, and sewage backups and in most cases, you will probably have to close the operation until they have been sorted.
Your local authority will consider any of these to be an imminent threat to health. You need to inform them as soon as it happens, correct the problem, and usually, you will need their approval before service can start again.
With regards to food safety, you need to consider how safe the food is before using or destroying it:
- Throw away any water-damaged packaging or food.
- Conduct a thorough cleaning and sanitization of the entire operation if it has been flooded or has been exposed to sewage. This should be a deep clean ensuring you get under and behind areas that water or sewage can gather.
- If you have an electrical outage, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to help protect their internal temperatures.
- You do not have to immediately destroy the food. Once the power is back on, temperature test all foods, it may be that the refrigerators and freezers managed to protect the cold chain.
- If the food is above freezing or 41°F, then it will have to be destroyed. Make sure you thoroughly clean and sanitize the refrigerators and freezer.
- You need safe drinking water and if this has been interrupted, (broken mains for example), you must have it tested and verified that it is safe again.
Any disruption or closure is bad for business. Work with the local authorities to get it sorted as quickly as you can. Do not try and do it yourself without informing them.
Make sure the operation is fully cleaned and sanitized, and check all food, you may be able to save more than you think.
We have talked about the journey of food through your operation, where food safety can be compromised, and the controls you need to put in place. If you consider the flow, from delivery, through storage, preparation, cooking, hot/cold holding, service; there is a final part of the process that you also need to control.
That control is Waste Management and it plays an important part in the process. While waste food is not going to be consumed, it is also not going to be temperature controlled. The chances of bacterial multiplication as well as attracting unwanted pests are very high. The risk of accidental cross-contamination is also very high.
As a manager, think of how much waste your operation produces on a typical day.
- Is waste left to build up in the kitchen or is it removed often?
- Are the trash cans cleaned regularly?
- Does their location present danger of cross-contamination?
- Are staff aware of the basic precautions such as hand washing after dealing with trash?
- Do the trash cans need to be added to your cleaning schedule?
Your role is to determine how much risk trash is and train your staff in the processes required, the frequency of disposal, and the cleaning methods.
- Trash cans with lids are the best option for dealing with food waste. Preferably with foot-operated lids.
- Trash can liners should be fitted properly and ideally use double liners for highly contaminated waste.
- Trash cans must be easy to clean and able to prevent pest access.
- They should be included in your cleaning schedule and regularly cleaned and sanitized.
- Make sure there are enough trash cans and they are sited where most needed in the production process. They need to be within a food handler’s easy reach. However, they must not be so close to food as to create a risk of cross-contamination.
- Do not have staff crossing food preparation areas to reach the cans. The dangers of cross-contamination are high.
- Staff must ALWAYS wash their hands after handling waste or waste containers.
- Food waste should be removed on a regular basis. A suggestion is to remove when the liners are half full so there is a reduced chance of spillage when emptying.
- Use refrigerated storage, when possible, if strict trash rules are present in your city/state (e.g. NYC does not allow trash on the sidewalks until 6 pm in the spring and summer seasons). This reduces odors and the attractiveness of vermin to your trash.
- Packaging or other rubbish must not be allowed to build up within the premises.
- A build-up of waste can be a physical, biological, and fire hazard. It should be stored in a neat manner to prevent tripping hazards or any other dangerous conditions.
- Outside waste areas must be kept clean, and pest proof.
- Trash bins MUST have closable lids to prevent pest access.
- Ideally, there should be a secure area within the boundary of the premises to store waste awaiting collection.
- A commercial waste removal contract is required.
- External storage containers and holding areas must be included in your cleaning schedule. Usually in the Deep Clean Schedule.
- Drainage areas, where trash bins are stored, must be free and clear from debris that could possibly block the drain.
Let’s talk about unwelcome visitors!
Unfortunately, pests are attracted to any place where food is stored, prepared, sold, served, or thrown away. They can enter buildings through open windows and doors, or even the smallest cracks in walls, around windows and pipes. As with bacterial multiplication, it is an ongoing threat that requires constant vigilance.
And it’s important to recognize that pests are a source of food contamination. Pests carry the disease on their bodies, in their intestines, can cause bacterial contamination and cross-contamination problems through direct contact with food, and cross-contamination of work surfaces, utensils, equipment, storage, etc.
The Food Code, (6-501.111 and 7-206.11-13), requires establishments to be kept free of all pests, especially insects and rodents. Maintaining an integrated pest management program, (IPM), using a licensed pest control operator, (PCO) is a legal requirement.
Denial of Access
Food premises are very attractive to pests because they contain everything most pests need to survive:
- Moisture – condensation from cooking, dripping faucets, stored liquids.
- Shelter for sleeping or nesting in any undisturbed areas, such as under a cooler that has not been regularly moved for cleaning, or the back of a storeroom that is not regularly checked.
Effective pest control involves protecting premises so that pests cannot gain access. (This is sometimes called Denial of Access).
Ultimately you want to pest-proof your building to deny access to these unwanted visitors because once they become established it can be difficult to get rid of them.
Maintaining a clean workplace and being able to spot the signs of pests is your best defense.
Staff needs to pay special attention to food preparation areas, storage areas, drains, gutters, and trash areas.
Remember the phrase “clean as you go”, and always ensure that staff clean up any spilled food immediately. Do not give pests a chance to find food.
We will briefly touch on the legal requirements you need as a food operation, however, the key point, is to make sure you appoint and have a reliable PCO. They are the experts in Pest Control.
Your role as a manager is to manage the relationship with your PCO and to encourage staff to immediately report any pest sightings.
The Federal Food Code 2017, Section 6-501.111 and 7-206.11-13 provides guidance regarding controlling pest control and adopting a Pest Control Operator Program (PCO) and an Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
Your local DOH will also have written standards outlining the minimum requirements for a pest control program.
Pest activity is a constant battle, and you cannot manage this on your own. Staff needs to be aware of the dangers to food safety.
Their key role will be in observation and reporting, not destruction. Always encourage them to report any sightings immediately.
Detailed below are some of the key training points you need to discuss with staff:
- They must regularly inspect the building to check for evidence of pests.
- Check deliveries carefully, some pests have entered food premises in packaging, vegetables, fruit, cereals, and grain.
- Check stored goods regularly and rotate stock, (remember FIFO).
- Keep food covered at all times.
- Never leave food in the preparation area when you are closed or overnight.
- Store food off the floor in suitable, sealable containers.
- Report any signs of damaged, torn, pierced, or gnawed packaging.
- Report any signs of pest activity – droppings, dead bodies, gnaw marks, unusual odors, nesting, or unusual noise.
- Store food waste in trash containers with securely fitting lids.
- Keep doors and windows closed unless you have correctly fitting screens or curtains.
In addition to the points we have talked about, we offer a comprehensive download detailing the type of pests you need to be aware of, their habits, their breeding, and how to deal with them.
We recommend you download the document and add it to your staff training when discussing pests.