Kitchen Hygiene in the Spotlight

Published on Tuesday, 09 June 2020
Last updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2020

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COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of maintaining good personal hygiene standards as a way of preventing the spread of the virus through hand-to-hand contact.

To this end, early childhood services have been busy reinforcing the importance and effectiveness of hand washing as a prevention tool and explaining to children why they shouldn’t touch their faces.

An equally important facet of infection control in early childhood settings is kitchen cleanliness. According to the World Health Organisation the COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, around 4 hours on copper and around 24 hours on cardboard, which makes kitchens a fertile environment for the virus to spread.

Given that social distancing and stringent hygiene standards are likely to be in remain in place after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, now is a great time to take a look at your kitchen cleaning routine to ensure you’re in line with best practice and doing everything you can to keep your staff and children safe and well.

Feed Australia have put together a list of helpful kitchen cleaning tips which may serve as a useful reminder when you reflect on the cleaning protocols in your service.

Clear your surface and clean them again

Before cooking you should begin with a clean, clear surface. This includes not only cleaning your benchtops with household cleaner, but also waiting for them to dry. Most everyday cleaning products, or even soap and water, will be suitable for cleaning, although to kill the virus on a surface, a disinfectant is needed to ensure a thorough clean.

It's a great idea to store small appliances and any other items in cupboards, rather than on top of the bench as they can inhibit a thorough bench clean and harbour germs if/when we get into the habit of cleaning around them.

When cleaning surfaces, don’t forget to also regularly clean frequently touched places such as light switches and door handles and the knobs on items like the stove or where you pull out your drawers.

The bottom line: before you even begin cooking, keeping your kitchen benchtops clean and clear is the best way to discourage the spread of germs in your kitchen. 

Think about food hygiene

According to Feed Australia, good food hygiene has three important components, which revolve around the safe preparation, cooking and storage of food.

  1. Thoroughly cook meat
    Coronavirus or not, it is always important to cook meat thoroughly. Aim for an internal temperature of 75°C or hotter when you cook food. Heating foods to this temperature kills most food-poisoning bacteria. You can use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of foods during the cooking process. 

    Always cook mince, sausages, whole chickens or stuffed meats right through to the centre. You should not be able to see any pink meat and the juices should be clear. Meats including steak, chops and whole cuts of red meat may be cooked to your preference as bacteria are mostly found on the surface.
  2. Wash fruit and vegetables
    Theres always the chance that people have handled your fruit or vegetables at the supermarket or greengrocer before you picked it up, so it’s a good idea to thoroughly wash them when you bring them into your kitchen.

    Wash fruit and vegetables by rubbing them under running water as soon as you buy them rather than simply relying on the high heat of cooking to 'kill' any nasty germs. Cold water is fine and there’s no need to wash them with soap, as all this will do is leave them with a soapy taste. Pat dry with paper towel or a clean tea towel.
  3. Safe food storage
    It's important to properly store raw meats, dairy and other foods which need to be kept cold in the fridge or freezer in order to prevent bacteria from growing before you can consume them. Keeping foods cold also ensures that your food does not expire before the use-by dates. 

    Keeping raw and ready to eat foods separate is equally important. Raw foods have bacteria present, which is why we need to cook most of our foods. Raw foods such as meat, fish and fruits should be kept in a different compartment of the fridge to avoid cross-contamination (which can occur through dripping) with cooked foods such as pre-prepared soups and stews. 

    It’s also important to keep dry foods and liquids separated during storage. Wet food can attract mould easily. Grains, powdered, baked, and canned or dry foods should be properly stored away from liquid.

Keep your cleaning tools clean!

So, by now you’re keeping your kitchen surfaces spotlessly clean, but what about your cleaning tools? It’s important to keep tea towels, sponges and cleaning cloths clean and to replace them regularly.

Tea towels, sponges and cleaning cloths are very important items in the kitchen and are used on a daily basis to open hot lids, to remove foods from the microwave or oven, to bring down boiling soup from heat and to wipe off food or water from our wet hands.

Towels and cloths often become wet when being used which means that microorganisms can harbour on their damp surfaces. For this reason, it’s really important to wash and sanitise them regularly. Sponges and dishwashing brushes can even be put in the dishwasher at the end of the day for a thorough clean.

Wash your hands properly

Germs can spread very easily between our hands and food, so having a clean pair of hands before engaging in any food preparation or cooking is essential.

So, what is the best way to clean your hands?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), washing your hands properly takes about as long as singing "Happy Birthday" twice (more than 20 seconds). Washing hands with warm water and soap is best and it’s important to dry your hands thoroughly after washing as well. You should only use alcohol-based hand sanitiser when you don’t have immediate access to soap and water.

When it comes to hand hygiene, another consideration is whether we should be wearing gloves? According to the WHO, wearing gloves can create a false sense of security and washing hands is a far better precautionary measure.

7 simple strategies for staying clean, safe and healthy in the kitchen

  1. Start clean. Before you begin cooking, wash any lingering dishes; empty the sink, dishwasher and dish rack; clear the bench, then wipe them down with kitchen cleaner; scrub the stove if splattered.
  2. Clean as you cook, where possible don’t leave dirty dishes lying around while you’re in the process of cooking. You should also regularly clean and sanitise workbenches, appliances and frequently touched surfaces such as door handles and light switches.
  3. Always clean all knives thoroughly between uses, this can help prevent cross contamination.
  4. Set the dishwasher to 60 plus degrees (or the hottest possible setting).
  5. Wash fruit and veg before putting them in the fridge or cupboard
  6. Always cook meat thoroughly, right through to the centre.
  7. Wash your hands (again and again and again). Remember to wash hands before cooking, as well as throughout food preparation and cooking, whenever your hands are oily or floured or have anything on them.

This article was reproduced in part with permission from Feed Australia.

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