Safety Check

Nothing is more unwelcome to your business than causing an outbreak of a foodborne illness, or being traced back to giving someone an allergic reaction. Here’s a variety of tips to help you stay safe.

No Gluten

Just offering gluten-free dishes isn’t enough. Invest in equipment (fryers, ovens, warmers, etc.) dedicated to preparing those items. Pans and utensils used specifically for this purpose should be clearly labelled or colour coded. Another strategy is to put together a “kit” with pre-sanitized items. For example, a plastic bag with cutting board, knives, tongs, spatula and sauté pan, plus a pair of fresh gloves: ready to cook a gluten-free (or any other allergen-free) recipe. That makes training employees easier, too.

Clean First

Relying on disinfectants to “clean” hard surfaces can be wasteful and costly. Constant, thorough cleaning with soap and water is the best method to remove spills and stains before any disinfectant or sanitizer can work properly. Some operators or employees may have unrealistic expectations for disinfectants, thinking they will make surfaces 100% sterile; they do not. That said, these products work well—be sure to read labels and follow directions. Everything from best temperature to apply to length of contact time is important.

“The Dirtiest Inch”

Kitchen lore points to the blade on the can opener. Train staff to wipe the tops of cans before opening; then wash the blade after using. At least once a week, take care of any built-up gunk on gears, too.


Here are good rules of thumb for when food-contact surfaces and items should be clean and sanitized. (Note: includes inside sidewalls and ceiling of microwaves.)

  1. After they are used.
  2. Any time food handlers have been interrupted in their task and subsequent contamination is likely.
  3. Before staff begin handling a different type of food.
  4. After 4 hours, if items are in constant use.

In the Clear

It’s cold in that ice bin—but not enough to kill many kinds of bacteria.


  • Can you see or feel slime on the machine’s inside? That’s actually biofilm (yuck!) that can thicken and spread. Many machines have an ultraviolet (UV) light in the bin—which doesn’t reduce the need for sanitization but rather the frequency it needs to be done. Lamp kits are available to retrofit older models.
  • Clean bins at least monthly, if not weekly. Remove scale at least twice each year.
  • Turn off machine; discard leftover ice.
  • Wipe down interior and exterior bin surfaces with a clean, sanitizer-soaked towel.
  • Spray surfaces with sanitizer and allow to air dry.
  • Clean gaskets and all door surfaces.
  • Shine a bright light inside the machine to inspect corners and difficult-to-see areas for residual soil or contamination. If present, repeat the cleaning process.
  • Before turning the machine on, completely wipe away any sanitizer that may have collected inside.

Everyday precautions

  • Put on gloves before removing ice from a machine or bins.
  • Don’t set bins on the floor while filling or after use.
  • Use a clean dolly or cart to transport bins.
  • Only use scoops to serve ice, never a cup or hands.
  • Store scoops in a clean, protected location.
  • Wash, rinse, and sanitize scoops every four hours.
  • Toss cracked or chipped scoops, bins, and other transport devices.

Sign Says

Everyone heard, “Go wash your hands” growing up, but the foodservice way is very specific indeed. Are you posting clear instructions that even novice employees are sure to follow?

  • Wet hands, wrists and lower arms with warm water and apply soap.
  • Rub hands together vigorously for 15–20 seconds, working all surfaces including fingers.
  • Rinse with warm water.
  • Dry thoroughly with disposable towel or air blower.
  • Use towel to turn off faucet.