FOODSERVICE By Hal King, Ph.D.
Is It Time to Change How We Clean and
Sanitize Food Contact Surfaces with
Reusable Wiping Towels?
Each year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Con- trol and Prevention (CDC) publishes a report summarizing domestic foodborne disease outbreaks based on the data collected by state,
local, and territorial health departments.1 The
2017 report (which reviewed data up to 2015)
identified restaurants, specifically those with
sit-down dining, as the most commonly implicated locations associated with foodborne
disease outbreaks. A total of 779 outbreaks were reported in
2015, of which 469 were attributed to dining in a restaurant.
In cases with a confirmed causative microorganism and where
a contributing factor (e.g., cross-contamination via hands or
surfaces like reusable towels/cloths, improper hot or cold
holding, etc.) was identified, cross-contamination of ingredi-
ents was the most commonly cited factor, and Salmonella was
the most commonly implicated pathogen. These cross-con-
tamination events could probably be reduced
with proper cleaning and sanitizing of food
contact and nonfood contact surfaces.
The purpose of traditional interventions
to prevent cross-contamination, like hand
hygiene and hard-surface cleaning/sanitation,
is to reduce the load of pathogenic microor-
ganisms that can make humans sick. Reduc-
tion of those pathogens is intended to limit
human exposure below the infectious dose. As hygiene inter-
ventions have evolved, some have been found to be too risky
for continuation. For example, bar soaps and open-refillable
bulk soap systems have been shown to harbor pathogens and
cause outbreaks—thankfully, CDC no longer allows them in
U.S. healthcare. 2 Another example of the evolution of an old
hygiene paradigm is cloth hand drying in public restrooms,
whereby a roll could allow for reuse of the same portion.
Risk of cross-
could prompt shift