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Keeping Cloud Kitchen Clean

by Clean India Journal Editor
0 comment

As kitchen spaces get smaller and living rooms expand in urban homes, the conscientious home-maker turned professional has now to depend on cloud kitchens to supply prompt, nutritious, ‘home-made’ food for sustenance. Prepared food from kitchens falls under high-risk category as unintentional transference of microbes from one object to another can create contamination resulting in illness and toxication from food. What are the safety measures that can prevent cross contamination in kitchens? We invited Tarun Bhatia, Country Manager, EMR Resources UK and Chef Ambassador, Venix SRL Italy and Bushra Ahmed, Head QFHSE and Compliance, Republic of Chicken, to share their views.

Bushra Ahmed opines five golden rules are to be followed to prevent the risk of food contamination.

Robust System Creation

This involves creation of routine sampling plan for testing of products, ensuring fumigation protocols with approved chemicals are followed to prevent airborne microbes from contaminating the product, audit and safety checks, installation of IoT-based monitoring systems to give rapid alerts and swab testing of food contact surfaces including hands.

Blast chilling and freezing

This is the most commonly used method for rapidly reducing the product temperature so that the product does not reach the danger zone. Earlier, when the product was cooked in bulk there was loss of heat at room temperature. However, with blast chilling the reduced temperature is safe from bacterial growth.              

Eat Good – Stay Healthy, that’s the Mantra and what better way to do this is by avoiding Cross Contamination

Bulk cooking to sub-batches

In the typical cloud kitchen model, where the customer needs to be supplied with food swiftly, products are bulk cooked and sub-batches are created so that post regeneration it can be served to consumers. If one small batch is contaminated, then the spread to other packed pouches can be prevented. The next step involved is improvisation of preservation method so that product shelf life can be increased with the involvement of High Pressure Processing or cold plasma technology.

Adopting smart packaging

Companies are developing smart packaging with nanoparticles which not only prevent cross contamination but also help to enhance the product shelf-life by maintaining the taste and textural attributes of the food. Food-safe bags and packaging for storage is one of the common do’s which need to be extensively studied and used.

Treatment of Raw materials

 In food processing there are high, medium and low risk foods. The treatment and storage guidelines, for each risk level (needs to be adhered to). Typically, vegetables when washed need to be sanitized. There are many kitchens which want to reduce carbon footprint and use ozonation and cold plasma technology for agro-based products before dicing and cutting.

With advancement in technologies and continuous innovation, companies are utilizing ATP Hygiene monitoring systems and rapid testing kits for identification, inhibition and prevention of food contamination. In kitchens, the entire portfolio works on three premises of regulatory compliance, adopting basic HACCP systems and using technology to inhibit and prevent cross-contamination. Statutory guidelines include medical fitness of food handlers, visitor logs and temperature monitoring of sensitive products including those chilled, frozen and cooked to prevent contamination. Continuous improvement in food safety culture and awareness is the responsibility of every stakeholder across all levels of management.

Tarun Bhatia agrees that the prevention of cross contamination must have the involvement and contribution of all handlers from the entire food chain, ‘from farm to plate’. He lists a few essential practices which can prevent cross contamination.

Essential Practices

Separate food items by keeping raw meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from raw & fresh food as well as ready-to-eat foods. Use separate cutting boards, utensils, and storage containers to prevent contact between raw and cooked foods. Colour-code chopping boards and utensils to distinguish between items used for different food categories. Wash hands frequently, especially after handling raw foods, using the restroom, or touching surfaces. Use gloves when handling ready-to-eat food. Clean and sanitize food contact surfaces, countertops, cutting boards, and equipment regularly to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria and avoid cross contamination. Food items must be stored at safe temperatures. Refrigerate perishable foods promptly and maintain refrigerator and freezer temperatures at recommended levels to inhibit bacterial growth. Meats, poultry and seafood have to be cooked to appropriate internal temperatures to kill harmful bacteria. Food thermometers verify that the food reaches safe cooking temperatures and avoid danger zones (5 to 63 degree C). Conduct regular training sessions to educate kitchen staff about the importance of preventing cross-contamination. Teach proper handling techniques, cleaning procedures, and the significance of following food safety protocols. Use of gloves, aprons, and hairnets minimize the risk of contaminating food. Managers, chefs and supervisors must ensure that PPE is changed regularly and used appropriately. Finally, implement regular checks and audits to ensure compliance with food safety protocols.

Challenges often arise in compact, bustling kitchens, particularly when a single chopping board is utilized for raw and cooked products, along with vegetarian and meat items. Despite head chefs and planners introducing color-coded boards, the constraints of space and chaotic operational hours can lead to neglect of basic cross-contamination rules.

Addressing this issue requires comprehensive training, vigilant supervision, and individual commitment from chefs and cooks. Only through the proactive implementation of proper protocols can we guarantee the prevention of such mishaps.

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