Maintaining a hygienic and safe School canteens requires a systematic approach including set procedures and scheduled cleaning. The School canteen is a busy environment where the pace can be frenetic but it is important that the ‘busyness’ does not overtake the cleaning regime and the cleaning of School canteen equipment.

 Staff Hygiene

Apart from basic personal hygiene such as regularly washing hands, canteen staff should take care in the preparation and handling of food. It is important to wear gloves as far as possible, to have hair tied back and covered, and to avoid touching unnecessary equipment while handling food. A washbasin with warm water and soap should be located within easy distance of where staff work. Wounds such as cuts need to be securely covered to ensure that there is no contamination either way.

 Insect Control

The first step in controlling insects and other vermin is to ensure that School canteen is kept clean, benches are wiped down, and that food rubbish is covered and disposed of as quickly as practical. Food which is dropped behind equipment or furniture may be difficult to see but it is necessary to check these places daily. There are those insects which you encounter on a daily basis such as flies –these can be controlled by fly traps or similar mechanisms. Similarly cockroaches can be trapped as can mice. Such traps need to be checked and renewed according to a regular schedule. Take advantage of the School holidays to use the services of a professional pest controller as trapping insects and rodents is but one layer in the control of insects.

Electrical Safety

School canteen equipment should be tagged and tested regularly depending on its use, but all equipment needs to be tested at least annually. Stoves and fridges use a lot of power – do not increase the power load on the circuits by using power boards to plug in multiple appliances. Ensure that power leads are not dragging across the floor or benches. This can cause injury and appliances to be pulled onto the floor. Replace fraying or worn leads, and be particularly aware of the conductive powers of water. If there is a liquid spillage move electrical leads and equipment out of range.

 Equipment Control and Maintenance

The main problem with fridges and freezers is that the temperature decreases with constant opening and closing of doors. Most commercial fridges come equipped with a thermometer which should be check at least 3 times a day and the temperature recorded. If the temperature inside the unit increases to an unsafe level, modify procedures to allow the temperature to stay at a sufficiently low level. Food (apart from fruit and vegetables) kept in fridges needs to have use by dates – check these each time you take something from the fridge to use.

 It is recommended that commercial stoves ovens and hoods are professionally cleaned at least once per year. In the range hood grease builds up, and the filter becomes less effective in the process. Depending on the amount of use the stoves and ovens have, it is recommended to clean the hood vents and filter at least once per term.  The filter needs to be soaked in a suitable detergent and then scrubbed to remove grease. Filters need to be replaced from time to time. Stove tops need to be cleaned after use.

 And Finally

It is a good idea to hire professional kitchen cleaners for large equipment at least annually – they have processes, knowledge and equipment not available to most School Canteens. School cleaners will clean your canteen on a daily basis. Canteen staff have the responsibility of checking that the cleaning is of a satisfactory standard. It is a good idea to sanitise benches and equipment at the end of the day by using very hot water or a chemical sanitiser – if using the latter it needs to be washed off after the required period.

About the Author

PhD in European Languages and Cultures (specialising in Literary Translation) Department of International Studies Macquarie University