Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfection Basics


Eric Moore, Director of Food Safety & Industry Relations, Testo North America

For the food industry, standard practices for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting are more important than ever, and are increasing for businesses in foodservice, grocery/retail and more. With these efforts prevailing, here are some important basics to keep in mind:

Special considerations for food contact surfaces and the use of disinfection chemicals:

  • Not all chemical disinfectants are designed and intended for use on food contact surfaces and could leave a chemical residue after use that could be hazardous to humans and/or animals. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all chemicals to ensure safety.


Cleaning, Sanitization, and Disinfection

  • Cleaning is the removal of visible soil (e.g., organic and inorganic material) from objects and surfaces, and normally is accomplished manually or mechanically using water with detergents or enzymatic products.
  • Sanitization is the application of cumulative heat or chemicals on cleaned FOOD-CONTACT SURFACES that, removes 99.999% of representative disease microorganisms of public health importance.
  • Disinfection describes a process that eliminates many or all pathogenic microorganisms, except bacterial spores, on inanimate objects, and requires that proper cleaning be completed prior.
    • Disinfection is often accomplished through use of liquid chemicals and typically requires very specific wet contact time (provided by the product manufacturer) between the chemical and the surface in order to effectively eliminate pathogens.
    • OSHA has a great resource on disinfectants that when used as recommended are effective at eliminating SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).
    • Wet contact time is the amount of time a liquid sanitizer or disinfectant needs to remain wet on a surface in order to be effective in eliminating the pathogen(s) of concern that it is being used for the remove. These times can range anywhere from two to ten minutes and are specific to the product and application, always read and follow the manufactures instructions. 



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