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Cleaning and Sanitizing

Food Contact Surfaces and Utensils

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified contamination of food equipment as one of the five leading causes of foodborne illness. Research shows that serious illnesses can result when people ingest even a few organisms like E. coli 0157:H7 and Shigella spp.

The Food Code requires that food contact surfaces and utensils be routinely cleaned and sanitized.

The person in charge of the establishment is responsible for:

  • Knowing the correct method for cleaning
  • Knowing sanitizing procedures
  • Ensuring employees follow effective cleaning & sanitizing steps

Managers must determine which agents and procedures will work best in their facility.


Cleaning is the removal of food, soil, and other types of debris from a surface. Detergents are cleaning agents that remove grease or fat associated with food residues. Cleaning does not, by itself, consistently reduce contamination to safe levels.


Sanitizing is an additional step that can only occur after a surface is already clean. Sanitizing involves the use of heat or chemicals to reduce the number of microorganisms to safe levels.

The Food Code requires that chemical sanitizers used in retail food facilities must be capable of reducing the number of disease causing organisms by 99.999%. If chemical sanitizers are used, they must achieve this level of reduction.

How to Clean and Sanitize Consistently

Two factors have essential elements of cleaning and sanitizing programs:

  1. Establishing clear procedures that address all the types of food equipment used (including clean-in-place systems)
  2. Effectively training employees

Portable Equipment

General procedures for manual cleaning and sanitizing are as follows:

  1. Pre-scrape utensils and equipment of food debris
  2. Wash in a warm solution of approved detergent
  3. Rinse in clear water or running water
  4. Sanitize in an acceptable chemical solution or hot (171°F) water
  5. Air dry before reusing

See 1999 FDA Food Code, section 4-501.112 for mechanical warewashing procedures

Other Equipment

Procedures for cleaning and sanitizing equipment that cannot be immersed in a sink are often highly specific to the piece of equipment. Food Code and manufacturer specifications should be followed closely.

Employee Training

Employees must be trained in cleaning and sanitizing practices that meet Food Code requirements. Both new employee and periodic refresher training are strongly recommended.


Check the following for further information about the cleaning and sanitizing compounds:

  1. 1999 FDA Food Code, Parts 4-6 and 4-7
  2. The manufacturer’s label and Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for cleaners and sanitizers used.
  3. Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services list of sanitizers tested and approved for use in food establishments. Copies of this list are available from MDARD upon request.
  4. The NSF International Nonfood Compounds Registry. Call 888-NSF-FOOD.