Shropshire Council

Preventing food poisoning

12 May 2015 Last updated at 02:14

Adequate cleaning and disinfection in Shropshire food businesses

Public Protection officers have been using instant swabs to check standards of cleaning in Shropshire food businesses. The instant swabs measure ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is a residue left on a surface when it's contaminated or dirty.

The importance of cleaning and disinfection has been highlighted in the recent Food Standards Agency guidance on E. coli O157. If a food or contact surface is dirty this can lead to food poisoning.

Officers found approximately 40% of visually clean food preparation surfaces and 20% of visually clean refrigerator handles failed the test. One test had 17 times the permitted level of contamination. The most common reasons for failing were:

  • using an unsuitable cleaning product/disinfectant. All disinfectants should comply with BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697 (this is marked on the cleaning product
  • using contaminated cleaning cloths - ideally single-use cloths should be used for cleaning
  • failure to use a two-step cleaning method. It was found in some premises that food business operators were relying on using a chemical only to clean and not removing grease and food debris first. The correct method would be to use hot soapy water, and then a British Standard-approved disinfectant with the correct contact time on the surface
  • failure to use a cleaning schedule - this indicates a lack of management control of the cleaning process

Where the cleaning process was found to be inadequate officers advised on and demonstrated the correct technique, and the surface was swabbed again to demonstrate the improvements.

The use of the ATP swabs was very well received by food business operators as they could instantly see if a surface they thought was clean was in fact dirty. By working with the food businesses our officers are helping to improve standards of cleaning, and to prevent food poisoning.