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You know work is going to be no fun so you get everything ready in advance, including your lunch. All you need to do is go to the kitchen during lunch and heat it back up.

The problem is that the office kitchen isn’t all that clean. There’s crusty cutlery and congealed coffee everywhere. Someone left something in the microwave and the less said about what’s inside the fridge the better.

How inconvenient and gross a kitchen like this is, is nothing compared to how dangerous to your health it is. There’s enough going on in a kitchen like that to leave someone very sick indeed.

Gastroenteritis is also sometimes called gastro, and it’s when the digestive system becomes inflamed or infected. The symptoms of gastro include diarrhoea and vomiting. While most people will feel uncomfortable some people can end up hospitalised. Gastro can even be fatal.

Businesses are losing out on around $6 per employee because they would rather head out to buy a coffee from the shop than deal with making one in a dirty kitchen. Research was conducted by Initial Hygiene in 2013 that discovered most kitchens in US offices were dirtier than the toilets there. Kitchens are at a much higher risk of cross-contamination because they are so busy.

State and territory health departments look for between 10 and 15 diseases that are usually transmitted thanks to equipment and surfaces used for preparing food being contaminated, or through the drinking of contaminated water. Collins said that there is a real problem because most people will feel that spoiled food still tastes decent.

So how do you keep your workers happy and healthy?

Keep Raw and Cooked Food Separate

Do you pick up groceries and just throw them in the work fridge before you take them home when you clock off? If so then you need to store raw and cooked food separately to prevent the risk of cross-contamination. Raw foods need to be stored on the bottom of the refrigerator to avoid any drips reaching the cooked food. You should also cover you food in a tight-fitting lid such as plastic wrap or foil.

If You’re Ever in Doubt then Just Throw it Out

You can avoid the risk of food poisoning by just throwing out any food you’re unsure of and any condiments that have passed their expiration date. Collins also warns workers to understand the temperature danger zone. She says that bacteria grow the quickest between 5C (the temperature of most fridges) and 60C (the temperature when steam rises).

 

If dirty dishes are left in a sink or scraps of food are left at room temperature, then they are at risk of becoming hotbeds for the bacteria that cause food poisoning.

It Needs to be Clean

You need to ensure that all the kitchen appliances, including the refrigerator and microwave, are regularly cleaned using hot soapy water. The fridge should also be kept at the optimum temperature for chilling, which means setting it at 4C or below. And it doesn’t take much to keep bad odors at bay with the use of any number of non-toxic, environmentally friendly products.

Throw out the Dish Cloths

Dish cloths are a major source of bacteria so you need to replace them or at least regularly sterilise them. One way to sterilise a dish cloth quickly and easily is to put some water on them and then microwave them until they start to steam. Collins also recommends that you replace cloth towels with paper towns if you can’t clean or replace the cloth towels regularly.

It’s also a good idea to include hand-washing in the work orientation to get staff educated and used to washing their hands to keep germs away. Many germs can be stopped in their tracks just by carefully washing hands and using paper towels or an air hand-dryer.

Washing Up

Having a dishwasher in the office is the most effective way to keep dishes clean. If you don’t have a dishwasher, use hot soapy water to hand wash the dishes before giving them a hot rinse and leaving them to air-dry on a rack.

Everyone Needs to Do Their Fair Share

There was a man in the US who decided that he would take on cleaning and detoxifying the fridge in his office. He documented this process and used a gas mask and gloves that were designed for handling nuclear, biological and chemical materials so that he could deal with a fridge he described as looking like a “morgue for casseroles”.

The most simple and effective strategy for keeping everything clean is to put together a roster system that includes all staff. The people who come up on the roster will be in charge of cleaning and washing up.

Get rid of any old food or unlabelled food including food containers. Put together a roster of people to wash tea towels or have a laundry company come and take care of it for you. Get rid of old tea towels and replace them with paper towels if you need to.

People need to be cleaning up after themselves, not touching things that belong to other people, and washing their hands. It’s not that hard to follow.

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