Good hygiene starts with kitchen design

By Emma De-Alwis - 18 July 2017

Hygienic design is essential to ensure that the cleanliness of a kitchen is easy to maintain. The suitability of the design and ease of cleanliness can lead to the reduction of food contamination and food poisoning incidents. When planning and designing a commercial kitchen, hygienic design is often forgotten at the expense of efficiency, functionality and practicality. For example, when designing a kitchen the significance of gaps and sealants can be overlooked. Gaps between the counter and wall are hard to effectively clean and can encourage pests such as insects and rodents. They can also encourage food debris build up and microbial growth. These areas should be sufficiently sealed and the efficacy of these seals reassessed regularly.

Thinking about the flow of the kitchen when designing it can assist good hygiene. Ingredients should flow away from storage areas without crossing over cooked food. Careful placement of sinks will help prevent food contamination as well. Dirty water can splash and contaminate food and equipment so sinks should be separate from food preparation areas and maintained in a clean state.

Consideration of how easy the kitchen is to clean at an early stage of the design process is beneficial. Cleaning, like the movement of food and raw ingredients, should follow a flow and be directed from clean zones to dirty zones. Cleaning that is quicker and easier to carry out is a major benefit to both food safety and productivity.

The design of equipment within the food preparation areas is also important and should be based on a balance of operational requirements (personnel and process safety) and hygienic requirements (food safety). The equipment used to prepare and serve food must not pose a risk to health, bring about an unacceptable change in the food composition or deteriorate the taste, smell, texture or look of the product. Catering providers must also comply with legislation: EU No. 1935/2004 and EU No. 10/2011 that regulate the use of materials that come into contact with food, including packaging and serving equipment. All those handling food should be adequately trained.

New legislation, set to come into effect in England by 2019, will mean that it will be mandatory for food outlets to display its food hygiene score in a prominent place. This is already mandatory in Northern Ireland and Wales, and a similar scheme in Scotland is also likely.

It's important for caterers to avoid cross contamination of food or equipment with biological, physical, chemical or allergenic material. Ideally there should be separate equipment and preparation areas for allergen-free cooking to safely accommodate for customers with food allergies and intolerances. The severities of the risks depend on many things including the food, the shelf-life and the consumers of the food.

Pathogenic viruses are an emerging problem for the food industry. Although they may not grow on or in foods, they can be carried on their surface. Viruses have a low infective dose and there is limited knowledge of how they react to common microbiological controls. Some of the most important viruses associated with foodborne infection are Norovirus, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E. Good hygiene practices before, during, and after food preparation can reduce the chances of contracting an illness.

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