If you’re running a business in the food industry, you’re not alone. Food service is one of the most common small businesses in the United States. It’s also one of the most challenging.
When you’re in the food service industry, you’re going to encounter new rules and regulations on a regular basis. Regulatory agencies are always updating their standards. And new laws are continually being passed to ensure the highest standards for food safety.
Regulations that seem difficult to meet aren’t impossible. You just have to know how to make it work. Here are 4 solutions to compliance dilemmas commonly faced in the food industry:
1. Washing Dishes Without a Sponge
In most cities, food safety regulations prohibit the use of sponges because they’re a breeding ground for bacteria.
According to NutritionAction.com, NSF International conducted a survey across U.S. homes to find out how sponges hold bacteria. The survey found 77% of sponges and dish cloths sampled contained coliform bacteria. What’s more, 86% had yeast and mold, and 18% had staph.
In the same article linked above, USDA microbiologist Manan Sharma explains how sponges breed bacteria. He says that sponges “come into contact with food residues that can build up in them and that provide nutrients for bacteria and other microorganisms to grow. What’s more, sponges are often wet and left in damp areas in or near the sink, which are ideal conditions for germs to multiply.”
Sharma also explains that microwaving a sponge will get rid of some bacteria. His team tested this theory by soaking sponges for two days in ground beef and soy broth to grow bacteria. They found microwaving the sponges at full power for one minute effectively killed much of that bacteria.
Although microwaving a sponge eliminates most bacteria, the FDA still prohibits their use in food service.
Hopefully you’re not using sponges in your food service establishment. However, if you are, you should get rid of them immediately. If you’re wondering how to wash dishes without a sponge, there are other, better ways.
For instance, you can get specially designed tools for scraping food off prior to washing. Then you can use a sponge-equivalent made of silicon to wash the dishes. You can also wash and sanitize these items.
Before you buy anything specific, check with your local health laws to find out what you can and can’t use.
RELATED ARTICLE: QUESTIONS TO ASK AS YOU START A FOOD TRUCK BUSINESS
2. Keeping Surfaces Clean Without Using Household Chemicals
It seems harmless to use household cleaners like Windex and Comet. However, there are regulations that prohibit their use in a food service setting. Sometimes the chemicals are allowed but since their use is regulated, they need to come from a regulated source.
When choosing a food-safe cleaning product, there is only one official regulation. That is the NSF Certification. As explained by Bradley Systems, experts in manufacturing and delivering food-safe cleaning products, the NSF has been the trusted name in food safety for 70 years. “Ensuring accountability from farm to fork, the NSF is known as ‘The Most Trusted Name in Food Safety™.’ Today, the NSF mark is the only certification that identifies food safe chemicals.”
The NSF mark ensures that all product labeling and claims have been objectively reviewed by a trusted third party.
3. Keeping Counters Clean at All Times
It’s a health code violation to leave wet rags out on the counter. But when your employees need to use them constantly, what can you do? In most cases, regulations require you to keep wet rags in a bucket of sanitizer unless they’re in use. This is one of the most ignored regulations because it’s extremely inconvenient. Nobody has time to run to the main bucket for a rag each time they need one.
To stay compliant while making your employees’ jobs easier, place smaller buckets of sanitizer in approved places throughout your establishment. It’s still inconvenient to have to store the rags in the bucket. But at least they’ll be more available.
4. Cleaning Floor Mats Without Washing Soap Down an Outside Drain
When you’ve got large rubber mats to clean, it’s tempting to toss them outside and give them a good scrub down with some dish soap and a deck brush. Unfortunately, in most areas it’s illegal to wash any chemical down outside drains, including soap.
Instead of washing your mats outside, have them professionally cleaned. Or, if you can swing it, buy an industrial dishwasher dedicated to washing your mats.
You Can Stay on Top of Fast-Changing Regulations
With so many fast changes, it’s hard to remain perfectly compliant. However, the consequences of non-compliance can be severe. It’s important to do everything you can to meet those tough regulations.