Since government agencies have steadily toughened legislation covering food safety and hygiene practices, cleanliness has continued to be under the spotlight throughout the hospitality industry.
Businesses, whether they are large or small, face hefty fines if they are found in breach of the regulations, as well as the possible bad publicity that can come if someone becomes sick dining at their establishment.
Cleanliness is now driving many of the decisions hospitality operators have to take daily. Smart operators are asking serious questions about their warewashing equipment and other kitchen hygiene systems, as well as staff training. Are these compliant with HACCP requirements and current FSANZ legislation? Will they minimise food safety risks at the same time as increasing efficiency? Are they cost-efficient?
The problems are compounded by the ever-increasing pressure on businesses to reduce their environmental footprint by reducing energy consumption and water wastage. According to hospitality industry experts, there is an increasing trend towards more enviro-friendly products and practices.
They say that reduced water consumption and energy efficiency are emerging as key issues from all sides of the industry, particularly as many of the same experts are predicting spiralling energy and water costs—and even more draconian food safety legislation—in the future.
Water consumption is a major issue for all foodservice operators, says Tim Smallwood from FCA Foodservice Consultants .
“One of the biggest consumers of water is dishwashers and warewashers,” Smallwood says. “We all know you can’t run a kitchen without using water, but you can run it more efficiently and effectively.”
Smallwood says while there are many products on the market that claim to offer water saving features, it is important that foodservice operators do their own homework and become more astute about the amount of water they’ll use in real terms opposed to what the supplier claims.
“Warewashing machines for example are only as fast as the person loading them. With conveyor dishwashers, there can be a lot of water and energy wastage. These issues are often overlooked so it’s important to look for models that address this. You should also look out for water-efficient features such as rinse sprays with specially designed jets for pre-rinsing for example,” he advises.
“Fortunately, an increasing number of companies are now offering water and energy efficient equipment. These include Rhima Australia (with its ICS+ conveyor systems), Global, Hobart, Comcater, FSM (Food Service Machinery) and Swiss Systems (Meiko).
Samlink, the exclusive importer/distributor of the Sammic range of warewashing in Australia, is also responding to the challenge for low water usage equipment. Principal Peter Egan says reduced water consumption is the main feature of four of Sammic’s newest products now available in Australia.
“Three of these are glasswashers and water consumption is 65—77% less than dump machines. The same can be said for the latest Sammic dishwasher—model23B—which uses only 2.5 litres per cycle as opposed to 9 – 11 litres in traditional models,” explains Egan.
Phil Maybury, Hobart Food Equipment warewashing product manager, says Hobart’s new rack conveyors offer reduced water consumption down to one litre a rack versus between two and four litres in hood models.
“They also come with energy saving auto-timers to conserve temperature when not in use. Other key features include guaranteed rinse temperature and rinse quality and improved control and accuracy of data feedback monitoring system that complies with HACCP requirements.”
John Frost, consultant with Cini Little says that as dishwashers and warewashers are also big consumers of energy, it makes sense to search out such machines which have such extra features as temperature retention, heat recovery and insulation.
“The insulation of a machine helps save on energy costs due to its benefits in heat recovery,” says Frost. “Unlike many other many warewashing machines which are only insulated at the top, there has been an emergence of models featuring full length insulation offering lower water consumption, lower energy usage and lower noise emissions. This is achieved by a double skin on the machines and a condenser that recycles heat and steam and puts it back in the machine rather than up the flue.”
Frost also recommends suppliers such as Hobart, Comcater (Winterhalter brand) and Global, all of which have long and successful track records in energy and water-efficient machines
When it comes to other types of warewashing equipment, Frost says there are increasingly better solutions now on the market worth their weight in energy and labour-saving costs. These include pot washers, cutlery washers and polishers and glass washers and polishers. He adds that other practices such as pre-washing, pre-soaking and appropriate use of detergents were also important factors in improving efficiency and cost savings.
While the type of machinery is important in maintaining cleanliness standards, both consultants Smallwood and Frost emphasise the critical need for good design and planning in a kitchen.
“If you purchase a great machine, it’s vital your kitchen is designed appropriately to accommodate it and to comply with important food safety requirements,” says Smallwood. “One solution is a design feature called ‘barrier controlled’ where the dishwasher is separated by a wall with soiled ware at one end and clean ware at the other.”
As in warewashers and other equipment, technology in personal and kitchen hygiene has moved ahead in leaps and bounds and again there been significant emphasis on enviro-friendly solutions to counter water wastage and the over use of chemicals and energy.
Smallwood says floor cleaning in kitchens is the worst culprit when it comes to wasting water. “Often kitchens have far too many hoses,” he says. “You give staff hoses and they’ll use them to excess. An alternative cost and water saving device is a wet-dry floor scrubber.”
Knifes has an extensive range of scrubber dryers for heavy duty floor cleaning, an application which leaves floors clean and dry with minimal water usage and energy consumption.
Another unique cleaning and sanitising system new to Australia is Rox electrolysed water distributed by e-Water Systems (www.ewatersystems.com)
Originated in Japan, Rox water is used for a multitude of sanitising and cleaning applications—and not just floors but for hand washing, for vegetables and fruit, on equipment, appliances, sinks, bench-tops, refrigerators, freezers, walls, ovens and ranges.
Electrolysed water is created by the ROX water units which produce a combination of tap water, salt and electricity. When these elements combine, they produce two highly effective solutions without the use of chemicals.
The system’s already been trialled in a hospital and produced cost savings of 60% in chemicals over five years.
The system comes with a host of benefits. It significantly reduces the presence of micro-organisms, fungus, viruses and food- borne pathogens, thereby providing a higher standard of food safety as well as reducing water consumption.
Another important area of food safety, hygiene and risk management is temperature monitoring and control.
Many kitchens still rely on checking temperature from a thermometer and manually recording it but suppliers are now turning to more efficient methods.
New to Australia is Monika which offers temperature monitoring systems developed specifically for HACCP requirements.
Business development manager, Paul Gamble, says the Monika system offers a new integrated range of temperature probing, logging and networked monitoring systems specifically for foodservice environments. “The PC and software system addresses the three key factors of HACCP requirements—accountability, traceability and built-in corrective action.”
The system can monitor temperature of all different types of equipment—cool rooms, chillers, dishwashers, glass washers etc. It provides a whole method of collecting the information electronically and accurately.”
There are many more measures staff can take to improve food safety and kitchen hygiene through awareness and compliance of good practice. Much of this comes down to kitchen design, pre-planning and good staff training.
As Tim Smallwood explains, the most efficient machines cannot take the place of good, trained staff. “Take egg cartons for example,” he explains. “Research shows that these often come from a contaminated environment, especially if they’ve been sourced direct from the farm. The same applies when cartons of food are brought straight into a kitchen.
“These could have been thrown around in the back of a truck, or been sitting outside vulnerable to bird droppings. Anyone bringing these inside is asking for trouble. Good practice is to first transfer the product into sanitised containers.”
Another example of poor practice is the incorrect belief that wearing disposable rubber gloves is hygienic. Research shows that gloves are not as effective as frequent hand-washing. Businesses which have an over-reliance of gloves are taking unnecessary risks. Those that do, increase the operator’s management risk.
Says John Frost: “How many times do you see staff wearing a rubber glove and handling food while preparing an order. Then, with the same hand, the person will collect and handle change.
“This is common practice. Unfortunately, as a race, we’re generally not very good at complaining or reporting such incidences. Although business operators have become increasingly cognisant of food safety issues and know they must comply with standards and regulations, it’s also a hard thing for bosses to pass on the message to staff.”
The high turnover of staff is a problem when it comes to maintaining standards. ”A lot of work still needs be done to continually reinforce the health safety message and step up observation and record keeping—not just as far as cleaning machines is concerned, but throughout the entire food preparation, cooking and cleaning up process,” says Frost. “A lot of work needs to be done to continually reinforce to operators on health requirements and to step up observance and record keeping of good practice amongst staff.”
Communication manager for regulatory body, FSANZ Lydia Buchtmann says foodservice operators should continue to re-educate themselves and staff on the Food Standards Code. “
For more information on food standards got to http://www.foodstandards.gov.au