Surface Disinfection: A Vital Point to Avoid DiseasesBy Tony Sarraf | Tue, 07/05/2022 - 13:00
For the last two years we have heard, read, written and talked about the pandemic. With that, sanitation protocols acquired a new dimension of importance and observance. However, it is an issue that goes beyond the coronavirus as it relates to other pathogens and is active in various industries, fields and sectors.
In all food-related industries, maintaining and ensuring food safety is vital to the business, since the reputation of companies that produce, prepare, serve, package or market food, as well as those that offer medical or health services, depends on it. Poor food handling or sanitary control can lead to losses that could represent economic costs or damage to patients' health.
Why is it important to disinfect surfaces? The answer may seem obvious but let's dig a little deeper. Cleaning and disinfection help to eliminate pathogens or considerably reduce their concentration in contaminated areas. To achieve the highest level of disinfection, methods, detergents and soaps and disinfectants suitable for the task are indispensable, otherwise site and food safety might be compromised.
According to the World Health Organization, worldwide every year, one out of every 10 people fall ill from eating contaminated food and more than 200 diseases are caused by the ingestion of bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances that may be in food. In Mexico, according to the Ministry of Health, there are 6 million food- or water-borne illnesses each year.
There are several determining risk points that can trigger cases or outbreaks of illnesses caused by food pathogens that are directly related to surfaces: inadequate sanitary infrastructure, deficient hygiene protocols in water used for cleaning, lack of monitoring of the environments with which food comes into contact, existence and proximity of pathogen carriers, ineffective surveillance system and deficient personnel training.
Food safety starts with hygiene protocols that include best practices for employee cleaning, disinfection of equipment used to process, prepare or serve food, as well as the use of detergents and cleaners to disinfect a wide variety of surfaces.
At this point it is important to remember that cleaning and disinfection of surfaces is not limited to food. In the healthcare sector, it is also of vital importance. In medical facilities, for example, a multipronged approach, including protocols, monitoring, training and auditing, is required.
It is worth mentioning some practical examples to emphasize the need of protocols, manuals and constant training for those who perform cleaning and disinfection tasks. According to the World Health Organization, in its Manual on Cleaning and Disinfection of Surfaces, "cleaning should proceed from the least dirty areas to the dirtiest, and from top to bottom so that debris may fall to the floor and is cleaned at the end; one must proceed in a systematic way so as not to skip any area.
During the cleaning process, detergent or disinfectant solutions used in the process become contaminated and gradually lose their effectiveness when there is a lot of organic matter. This is the fundamental reason to use and dispose of used detergents or disinfectants according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
When selecting soaps, detergents and disinfectants to be used, the type of surface, its function, the type of materials or pathogens to which it is exposed, the indications for its handling and the compatibility between each of the products to be used must be taken into consideration. In addition, the personnel performing the cleaning and disinfection tasks must wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) due to the concentrations of active ingredients in the solutions used.
As we can see, in both the food and health sectors, cleaning and disinfection are processes that require extensive knowledge and help of experts in the field to achieve the highest safety levels and protect users, patients and consumers.
From the industry, we should set protocols, disinfection methods and training programs that meet the hygiene, cleaning and sanitization needs of each facility. Reducing the infection risk to the minimum possible is a task that requires orderly steps, the right tools and the right technology to achieve that goal.
Sanitization is a word we will continue to hear for a long time to come, so it is best that we know what it implies, how we can contribute to disinfecting surfaces and what features we should look for in each facility to make it safe.