Cleaning and sanitising food premises and food equipment

Definition of cleaning and sanitising

Cleaning

Standard 3.1.1 of the Code defines clean as meaning clean to touch and free of extraneous visible matter and objectionable odour.

Standard 3.2.2 of the Code outlines cleanliness as meaning there is no accumulation of:

  • garbage (except in garbage containers)
  • recycled matter (except in containers)
  • food waste
  • dirt
  • grease
  • other visible matter.

Cleaning and sanitising (disinfecting) are usually 2 separate processes.

Effective cleaning must occur before sanitising, as sanitisers may not work as well if the food contact surface or utensil has not had all visible contamination removed.

Cleaning is often achieved with detergent, water and agitation, with the visible dirt and detergent then rinsed and removed with clean water.

Detergents are chemicals that remove dirt and grease, however detergents do not kill bacteria and other microorganisms.

Microorganisms may be removed during the cleaning process, however cleaning is not intended to destroy microorganisms, sanitising is required for this purpose.

Sanitising

The term sanitary in the Code refers to the state of a food contact surface or utensil where it does not contain microorganisms at a level that would permit the transmission of infectious disease or compromise food safety.

Sanitisers are substances capable of destroying microorganisms including those bacteria that cause food poisoning and other diseases.

When used properly, they can reduce surface contamination by bacteria to a safe level. It is important to read and follow the directions on sanitisers carefully.

Sanitising is usually achieved using heat and water, or chemicals, or a combination of both methods. An effective alternative to chemical sanitisers is hot water used at (75°C or hotter) to soak items for 2 minutes or more.  

Points to remember about sanitising

  • Some sanitisers are toxic and residue must be rinsed off. Toxic sanitisers include:
    • QACs (quaternary ammonium compounds)
    • chlorine release agents (hypochlorites)
    • iodophors (iodine based compounds).
  • Some sanitisers, such as chlorine dioxide, are food-safe and do not require rinsing.
  • Sanitisers all work best at the correct dilution. If they are too weak, they do not work effectively, if they are too strong you are wasting your money.
  • Sanitisers need time to work. The contact time varies and may be seconds or minutes depending on the job.
  • Sanitising solution can be made up as needed and put into labelled spray bottles for use on bench tops, fridges, door handles and other surfaces.
  • Check the dilution, contact time, safety precautions, shelf life and storage of all chemicals before use.

For effective use of a sanitiser, follow the manufacturer’s instructions provided on the label.

Effective cleaning and sanitising

All items that come into contact with food must be effectively cleaned and sanitised. This is a 4 step process that removes food waste, dirt, grease and destroys food-borne disease pathogens.

The Code does not specify which procedures must be used to ensure the premises and equipment are kept in a clean and sanitary condition. Food businesses may use a combination of procedures and methods to meet Code’s requirements.  

Step 1 – Preparation

  • Remove loose dirt and food particles.
  • Rinse with warm, potable water.

Step 2 – Cleaning

  • Wash with hot water (60 °C) and detergent.
  • Rinse with clean potable water.

Step 3 – Sanitising (bacteria killing stage)

  • Treat with very hot, clean, potable water (75 °C) for at least 2 minutes.
  • Apply sanitiser as directed on the label.

Step 4 – Air drying

  • Leave benches, counters and equipment to air dry. The most hygienic way to dry equipment is in a draining rack.

Cost effective cleaning

Cleaning takes time and costs money.

With planning, well designed and organised food businesses can reduce the time required for thorough cleaning.

  • All items must be stored off the floor. Allowing clearance from the floor gives plenty of room for cleaning beneath shelving and equipment.
  • Undertake regular maintenance, for example filling holes and replacing damaged tiles.
  • Keep only what you need at the food business premises.
  • Implement and display a cleaning schedule so all staff know their cleaning responsibilities.
  • Keep wood out of the kitchen. Wood absorbs moisture, provides a breeding ground for food-borne disease pathogens and cannot be easily cleaned and sanitised.
  • Wipe down utensils and surfaces with paper towels. Dish cloths (tea towels) can spread bacteria.
  • If hosing down equipment and surfaces, use a high-volume, low pressure hose. High pressure hoses can splash and spray dirt onto surfaces and create aerosols that may contain and spread pathogens.

More information

Refer to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (external site), specifically:

  • Standard 3.2.2 Food Safety Practices and General Requirements
  • Standard 3.2.3 Food Premises and Equipment.

The accompanying Safe Food Australia – A Guide to the Food Safety Standards (external site) should also be read. Appendix 4 of the guide provides detailed and descriptive guidance on methods of cleaning and sanitising for food businesses.

For more information phone the Food Unit on 9388 4999.

Produced by

Public Health