It’s a simple rule to remember: all surfaces and items that come into contact with food must be sanitized. To prevent food from building up, dishes, cutlery and equipment must be cleaned frequently.

The difference between cleaning after preparing or cooking a meal at home versus at a food premise is sanitizing. We typically clean pots, pans, dishes and utensils using cleaning chemicals to remove the dirt, grease and debris. The same steps are taken when cleaning at a food premise, but with the added step of sanitizing. This reduces the odds of cross contamination and getting people sick as sanitizing kills 99.9% of pathogens.

How to Sanitize

There are two ways to sanitize a surface. One is to use very hot water. The other, more common way is to use chemicals. When using chemicals you need to make a sanitizer solution, which combines chemicals with water. The following is a list of the three types of chemicals that can be used to make a sanitizer solution:

  1. Chlorine bleach
  2. Iodine
  3. Quaternary Ammonium (commonly known as QUATS)

4 Sanitizer Strengths

To kill pathogens, sanitizers must be mixed and measured correctly. Here’s how:

  1. Hot water – Water must be at least 77 C or 170 F or higher to kill pathogens.
  2. Chlorine bleach – 100 parts per million (ppm). Combine 2 ml of 5% bleach to 1 litre of water.
  3. Iodine – 25 ppm. Mix according to label instructions.
  4. Quaternary Ammonium (QUATS) – 200 ppm. Make solution based on label instructions.

Keep a Watchful Eye

You need to test the strength of your sanitizers, whether water or chemical. A too strong sanitizer could result in chemical contamination, while a too weak one means it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do which is kill pathogens. Use test strips or test agents to check the strength of the chemical. With hot water, use a probe thermometer to ensure the temperature is high enough.

Other Sanitizers

You can use other sanitizers but they must be approved by Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), or your public health inspector. The sanitizer must be used correctly and you must test its strength using test strips or test agents.

Cleaning & Sanitizing Equipment

At food premises, the use of large equipment such as meat slicers or food processors is not uncommon. They need to be disassembled and cleaned often to avoid the build-up of food. Equipment that is in use must be sanitized at least every four hours or after being used on any potentially hazardous foods.

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