Commercial Kitchen Steam Vapor Cleaning Systems

kitchen-487973_1920A number of people have contacted me in request that I give some information about sterilizing cooking pots and other kitchen utensils. For most of us in the western world it is not absolutely necessary to sterilize pots as long as we make sure that we wash them thoroughly in very hot water and washing up detergent and a scrubbing pad. In other areas of the world or in situations where pots have been out in field conditions for any period of time, especially in areas where disease is prevalent, the need to continually sterilize pots may be a critical factor in the prevention of food contamination and the recontamination of sick people and the promotion of food hygiene in areas where it does not exist.
Firstly we need to look at the different types of cooking pots. The easiest type of kitchen cooking utensil to sterilize is stainless steel because we can clean it chemically without changing its properties. Other forms of pots present more problems. In Africa it is very common to cook in what, in some places, is called a “poike”. If I am not mistaken this is an Afrikaans word for a cast iron cooking pot. It is cast from a thick sheet of iron or steel and is designed to sit over an open fire. They come in many different sizes and are usually very heavy indeed. They have usually been treated with blackening so they have an outer covering. They also have a thick metal carrying handle that is attached to the rim of the pot across its diameter.
Another form of cooking pot is the aluminum pot. the advantages of aluminum are that it is lightweight and heats up very quickly. The disadvantages of aluminum are that it reacts to just about every form of chemical used to sterilize kitchen equipment. Even the acid in tomatoes, lemon and eggplants remove the essential oxidized layer on aluminum pots. The metal is relatively weak and handles usually fall off after a period of use.
Copper is another form of metal use to make cooking pots but utensils made from copper are normally expensive and in my opinion would not be used in areas of the world which require the sterilization of cooking equipment. In any case we can class it as having very similar properties to aluminum from a cleaning perspective.
Probably the oldest and most traditional way to sterilize all forms of cooking equipment is to boil them in boiling water. Adding some salt to the water will help in the disinfecting process and it will slightly increase the boiling temperature of the water and destroy more bacteria. The advantage of this system is that the pots and pans are immediately ready for use after sterilization. The disadvantages are that the equipment has to be 100% clean before going into the sterilization pot and they require a minimum of thirty minutes to boil before it is safe to take them out. Boiling does not ensure that all types of bacteria will be destroyed and some toxins can survive boiling.
Continuing with the theme of using water to sterilize kitchen equipment another efficient way to sterilize pots and pans is with steam. Steam is much hotter than water it will sterilize things that come into contact with it much more quickly. Using steam under pressure also removes baked on fats and other sediments. Steam treatment is OK for all types of metals but Steam is dangerous and requires that special equipment be worn before working with it safely and efficiently. This equipment should include thick plastic apron, thick plastic or neoprene gloves (not surgical gloves) and eye protection goggles. Like with water the advantage of steam is that equipment can be put straight back into use with no further treatment other than washing with a mild detergent and rinsing with water.
Caustic Soda is the next form of sterilization which I would like to talk about. Caustic Soda destroys all forms or organic material. Concentrated caustic soda needs to be diluted with water and heated to a temperature of no more than 80 degrees Celsius. Caustic soda breaks down at temperatures above 80 degrees Celsius and ceases to be effective.
Great care must be taken with caustic soda because it is very dangerous and can cause serious burns and blindness if it gets into your eyes. People using caustic soda should be properly trained and should also wear protective clothing which should include a thick plastic apron, thick neoprene gloves and a full industrial plastic face mask. This chemical is only suitable for stainless steel, plastic and glass. Other forms of metal will be affected by the chemical reaction of the soda. Aluminum may even be eaten away completely.
The use of caustic soda is also good for removing stubborn cooked on foods. The disadvantage of using soda is that it needs to be washed off dishes completely before they can be used again. Most big kitchen will use a high pressure tray washing machine to do this. If your water supply is not infected you may want to consider rinsing the pots in boiling water to avoid re contamination.
Caustic soda melts the fat in your skin if it spills onto the skin and it causes a slimy film on the surface of the skin until it is properly washed off with cold water. Wash until this feeling has completely gone. Caustic soda is also good for cleaning glass, ceramic and plastic utensils.
Yet another method of sterilizing kitchen equipment is to soak it in hot water and chlorine cleaning powder. Chlorine kitchen powder is also good for removing stubborn stains on ceramics, glass and Pyrex. This type of sterilization will react with aluminum and will remove the oxidized lawyer on the surface of the aluminum which is necessary to remove the toxicity of aluminum. Pots may become unusable if exposed to chlorine powder; therefore, I do not advise using chlorine powder to sterilize aluminum
This form of sterilization requires that equipment be soaked for about three to four hours for good results. Similarly to the use of chlorine must be washed off completely with a mild detergent before reusing treated equipment.

animal-1238375_1920Rodents can be a nightmare for all food businesses. It seems like they appear out of nowhere and disappear into thin air at random. Or do they? Environmental hygienists tell us that in the western world we are never more than ten feet away from a rat, on average. This is quite startling news because this means that rat concentrations may be higher than ever before in history. With the reported upsurge in the levels of reported food poisoning, particularly with reference to salmonella, e. coli and lysteria, the presence of rodents must be controlled professionally within food preparation areas.

In the days when sewers ran open in the middle of the streets of all towns to see rats scurrying around everywhere was no great thing. Nowadays, many of us get very fearful when we see a rat or mouse. It may be common to see rats around farm houses in the countryside but in urban domestic environments if a rat is seen indoors emergency calls will be made to the exterminator.

Rats are not fun to have around the house. They leave the smell of their urine in places they hide and the smell is very hard to get rid of. My house was once targeted by a rat when it was being renovated and we had a real job getting rid of the thing. It decided to set up shop in a washing machine of all places. The smell coming from the washing machine was so bad that I decided to buy a new one and have the old one taken away by the trash collectors.

Like any animal species rodents need an environment upon which they can thrive. They need warmth, food, water and a place to live. Rodents are social animals and do not like to live solitary lives. This means that any environment they decide to live in must be able to support several individuals.

It is our common belief that rodents will come because a slice of bread was left out or because there were a few crumbs that spilled on the floor. This notion is not quite true. Rodents need more than just a solitary piece of food.

Food businesses can be ideal places for rodents to thrive because they can find environments suitable to support whole colonies around food outlets. By using the term environment I relate to the following. Your premises, the neighbouring premises, the drainage system, your roof, the garbage collection area, your store rooms, other store rooms in your immediate area such as bakeries, butchers, vegetable stores, the condition of housing around your business and many other possible factors. All of these elements go towards creating an environment in which rodents can thrive.

There is one thing you must know about rodents. Anywhere they can squeeze their head through they can get their whole body through in a matter of a couple of seconds. Rats will swim through a drain water to trap to squeeze through the grate of a drain. They have no problem doing this.

Highly populated areas are good environments in which to open all sorts of food businesses but they are also perfect environments for rodents. As humans we have developed the ability to control environments and the critical point about pest control in food businesses is the control of the environment around your business.

This is no short order. As I have already suggested there are many factors which contribute to the environment in which your business is situated, from the perspective of a rat or mouse. Firstly there is the question of resident rodent infestation. Is your business situated upon an existing rodent problem? It is a lot harder to get rid of rodents that have inhabited your surroundings for decades than it is to prevent the infestation of rats and mice. This is due to the fact they have the advantage of knowing the terrain like the back of their little fury hands whereas you may be new to the lay of the land.

Infrastructure includes the following areas, drains and sewers, outside walls and piping, rendering, wall cavities, areas under roofs, ovens (especially ovens with insulation), cellars, dry store rooms, trash can areas, box collection areas, vegetation around your areas including trees, neighboring businesses of all types, boxes with stored equipment especially if it is not often used, linen areas, service cupboards and toilet areas.

The places that rodents can inhabit are countless. The key to controlling the presence of rodents in your business is as I have already said to control THEIR potential environment. You must think from the rodents perspective. You must control everything that goes on both in and around your business. Another good indicator to the presence of rats is the presence of cats. Cat are another pest that will inhabit environments which can support them. More often than not they share these environments quite happily with rats. Alley cats are not good ratters because they don’t need them for food. Why should they fight a rat if they have scraps to fed off?

Controlling the environment in which your business is situated is all about a working system and having the staff to do it. Chefs and waiters must not deal in pest control. They must never contaminate themselves by cleaning contaminated areas. All responsible businesses must hire general staff to make sure the area inside and outside the area is kept spotless at all times. Chefs waiters and sore workers must also insure that areas under their direct responsibility and hygiene level are kept hygienic and tidy at all times. Any restaurant team that finishes their shift just ten minutes before going home cannot clean the business properly. At least one hour of solid cleaning is required, twice daily at least, to keep a food preparation business environments clean and controlled from a vermin aspect.

Also, pest control contractors must make fortnightly visits to appraise the vermin presence in and around your business. Likewise drain pumps must be carried out at least once a month by an authorized contracting or municipal authority.

Only when you pay attention to every detail concerning the hygienic state in around your business can you be reasonably assured that you are protecting your customers against disease which is transmitted by rodents and other pests.

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One of the great pastimes of all time has to be the camping holiday. So many of us work at the same old job day in and day out going through the same old routines time and time again. We long for the day when we can hang up that apron, pack everything we need into a back pack and head out onto the open road. At least some of us do.

Camping holidays vary greatly. To some camping may be sleeping rough next to the camp fire with only the stars for a roof. To others camping may be a luxury safari in Kenya where everything is meticulously planned right down to the champagne on ice and after eight mint on the pillow. Whatever our dream camping holiday may be, we should remember that we are no longer in our natural environment. We can no longer say that we are entirely suited to living out in the open. The days when our distant ancestors were hunter gatherers are long gone and the level of natural immunity that they possessed we can only wish for.

When we are in an outdoor environment for an extended period of time we need to keep in mind that we take care of all of our needs in the same environment whereas in our homes we have created separate environments to cater for our various needs. When we are in the outdoor environment we actually have very limited control over it. The quality of water in a natural environment is what it is. We can do nothing to change it nor can we do much to deter insect vectors such as flies, ants, ticks and leeches, for example.

The only way we can control the effect that the environment has on us is to control the way we organize ourselves within it. The most important logistical problem that we face from a food hygiene aspect is the problem of water. We must have a safe source of water. The second most important problem that we face is having safe food to eat and the third most important problem that we have to contend with is how to take care of our personal hygiene needs without contaminating the area in which we have to live. Ideally these should be three separate areas. This will reduce the risks of cross contamination.

On a camping trip we may have only one source of water which we have to use for purposes of hygiene, cooking and drinking. This presents a challenge which needs to be addressed. Indeed, a great many cases of serious food and water poisoning originate on camping trips. I can vouch for this personally.

The four golden rule of food hygiene apply as much outdoors as they do indoors. Lets take a look at the four rules and see how to apply them successfully in the camp site scenario.

Rule 1. Buy food from a safe source.
In the camp site this means take food that will not perish. Sterilized packs of food can be bought in specialist outdoors shops which are identical to those used by special forces. Failing that take dried foods and foods that have been packed in small tin cans, tubes, concentrates etc. Avoid taking fresh meats and fish at all costs. Even cooked meat will have a very limited life and can only be taken into account as a packed lunch for the first day to be eaten within four hours of setting off. Fruit such as apples can be taken for several days provided they are washed properly, dried and wrapped in a plastic bag in individual portions. Eggs should be avoided also unless you can get them fresh on your trip. Boil them for no less than 10 minutes. Likewise some hard vegetables such as carrots can be taken for the first couple of days. Again it is best to peel them, wash them thoroughly, dry them and wrap them hermetically in a plastic bag. Do not eat local food on trips unless you are absolutely sure that the source is safe. If you are unsure about a water source it is better to drink fresh milk than drink the water. If you catch dysentery you may well loose more water than you can intake.

Rule 2.Prevent bacteria from entering your food.
Again, by having your food closed in hermetically sealed wrapping the possibility of contamination is greatly reduced. Do not open more than you need for each meal. Do not mix food which has been opened with closed food. Do not leave food for long periods unattended. Either eat it or cook it. Preferably cook it. When handling foods make sure that you are clean, particularly hands and nails. Do not use knives that have been used for any other purpose other than for food. Clean them thoroughly before use as well as after use. Likewise, clean your bowls, plates, cups, knives and forks before eating and drinking as well as directly after the meal. Once clean I recommend putting them into a clean plastic bag to avoid contamination while on the trail. Use only clean water for cooking. If you are unsure of the water source and you have no other use a camp carbon filtration system or use chlorine water purification tablets. The water won’t taste great but it will make it drinkable provided there are no chemical contaminates in it.

Rule 3. Prevent the multiplication of bacteria in your food.
As you may have no way of keeping your cold food at a correct cold temperature it is always wise to eat all your food hot. Don’t leave food laying around. If your food source is all but sterile to begin with you won’t have many worries about the multiplication of bacteria in your food. The secret is to open it and eat it or heat it up and eat it as soon as possible. By that I mean within twenty minutes of being cooked. With a bit of correct organization and compromise on five star cuisine one can all but eliminate this stage.

Rule 4. Destroy bacteria on utensils and work surfaces.
Once again prior organization is the order of the day. Always take some washing up liquid and Lysol or dettol hygiene spray or wipes. Wash all work surfaces thoroughly with soap and rinse with water followed by spraying it with Lysol spray or wiping with an anti bacterial wipe. Do this before and after use. As previously stated wash all eating utensils before and after use. After use spray or wipe with an anti bacterial product and wrap in a clean plastic bag. Seal it as hermetically as possible. Discard the plastic bag after opening it for the next use. Old wrapping should be collected in a trash bag and taken home with you.

Keep your dirty clothing as far away as possible from your eating utensils and food. Make a field toilet at least fifty paces away from your camp site. Even if this is a hole in the ground make sure that you cover your excretions with some of the soil or sand that you have dug from the hole. If you have it pour a little chemical sanitizer onto the soil to deter flies. Avoid camping where others have defecated in the open. Scour the area before choosing the location. Do not wash and brush your teeth in the same area that you go to the toilet or eat. Choose a place suitable for this. If you cant wash as well as you would like use hygienic wipes. Particularly use them after washing your hands after visiting the toilet.

Many people like to entertain the notion that one is allowed to be a bit more lax on a camping holiday. This is the pitfall that causes so many people to fall terribly ill when camping. Nothing could be further from the truth. A healthy and successful camping trip requires quite a high level of forethought, prior organization and planning and an appropriate level of self discipline without ruining the holiday by being overly fanatical and obsessive. This is not what I am advocating. If performed systematically all of my suggestions should take no more than a few minutes of your time around mealtimes and safeguard you against several unpleasant days in hospital and a lifetime’s bad memory.

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One job that people really fear doing most in commercial kitchens is cleaning the tough grease off equipment, drains and vents. Why? Because it nearly always involves the use of strong caustic soda based substances.

These substances cause injuries if not handled properly. They can cause blindness if they get into eyes, they can cause breathing problems and they can cause severe chemical burns to the skin. In addition they are a food safety hazard and there is always the risk that they will enter food that is in the work area.

I have used these substances for many years because we really had no other solutions to the cleaning challenges we had to deal with on a daily basis. I used to dread having to use these substances and yet, being the type of person I am I would do most of this work myself because I knew that my staff would cause themselves injury.

However, there is no longer a reason to use such potentially dangerous substances because we have now entered the era of the steam vapour cleaning system. Whereby formally you would spread degreasers onto a surface or scrape a surface for hours on end with a spatula now you can do the same work in a very short space of time using a steam vapour cleaning system.

In commercial kitchens not all work surfaces or cooking trays are stainless steel. It is better if they are but some products use aluminium to make a product less expensive. The advantage with the steam vapour cleaning system is that it cleans any surface, stainless steel, ceramic, aluminium, rubber, plastic, wood or Teflon.

It will clean, grease, grime, mould and lime. What’s more you don’t have to evacuate a twenty meter radius when using it. Once the hard grease and grime is off it becomes easy to maintain clean surfaces because very little time is needed for maintenance. In fact, the only chemical you will regularly need in your kitchen is ordinary washing up detergent. I strongly advise using a steam vapour cleaning system in all types of kitchens. Remember, the cleaner you kitchen is kept, the fewer vermin problems you will have and the easier it becomes to clean your kitchen the cleaner it will be kept.

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