Food safety

What is the proper way to sanitize a table that has been used for preparing food?

Food contact surfaces such as the preparation table are potentially critical sources of contamination when not properly ...

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Food contact surfaces such as the preparation table are potentially critical sources of contamination when not properly and regularly sanitized. 

  • A food preparation table is considered a high-traffic area in your kitchen, and the likelihood of cross-contamination is high.
  • A food preparation table must be regularly sanitized in between operations to prevent causing foodborne illnesses.
  • The sanitation process is significantly affected by the concentration, contact time, temperature, and pH of the sanitizer and the preparatory operations before sanitation.

The majority of every restaurant kitchen's cooking process happens at the food preparation table. This is where the cutting, peeling, shredding, and assembling happen before and sometimes after cooking the food. With all the interactions occurring at a food prep table, the likelihood of cross-contamination between the food supply and the food product contact surface and vice versa is significantly high. Food handlers must be trained on what is the proper way to sanitize a table that has been used for preparing food items.

 chef sanitizing table
Cleaning and sanitation must be correctly performed to become effective. For a surface that regularly gathers potential sources of contamination, such as a preparation table, the frequency, cleaning solution, and manner of application all matter. Food businesses, whether restaurants or retail stores are expected to uphold high standards when it comes to the cleanliness of their establishments.
Although a prep table is part of the back-of-the-house operations and customers can't see it, almost all foods will pass through this table. This means that the safety of perishable foods that will be served to the consumers depends on the cleanliness of your food preparation table.



Do food preparation tables need to be cleaned and sanitized?

Food preparation tables must always be cleaned and sanitized. These tables are used to prepare almost any kind of dish in a restaurant and therefore must be cleaned and sanitized.

A preparation table is one of the areas in a kitchen with the highest traffic value and has direct food contact. As such, the likelihood of cross-contamination occurring in this area is significantly high. This risk can be reduced with regular sanitation.

Sanitizing food preparation tables is an invaluable step to controlling food safety. Less frequent sanitation can lead to the unwanted growth of harmful bacteria and other pathogens.

Sanitation of food preparation tables is as important as with knives, chopping boards, kitchen sinks, and kitchen equipment. Continuous use of a food prep table may cause food buildup and attract contaminants such as foodborne illness-causing bacteria and pests.


What is the proper way to sanitize a table that has been used for preparing food?

Cleaning a kitchen table top or preparation table must be done according to the recommended sequence. The proper sequence of cleaning operations and sanitation ensures that the processes will be effective, and recontaminating of the food contact surface will not occur.


Follow these steps to clean and sanitize food preparation tables:

1. Wipe the table top and remove all visible debris of food or any waste on the surface.

2. Wash the surface of the table with soapy, warm water to remove oil and food residue.

3. Rinse the table with clean water to remove any detergent residue.

4. Soak the kitchen preparation table with chosen disinfectant solution. Allow the sanitizing solution to stay on the surface as recommended by the manufacturer.

5. Allow the sanitized surface to air dry.


food preparation table sanitation procedure


To make the cleaning and sanitation more effective, food handlers will need to use some additional materials. You can use non-abrasive, clean produce brushes to help in removing food stains. Avoid steel wool brushes as this may scratch the table. Scratches can harbor stains or food debris, which may encourage bacteria growth. 

Cleaning and sanitation must be part of every restaurant cleaning checklist.


Why must prep tables be cleaned and sanitized between uses?

Cleaning and sanitation of prep tables are performed to prevent the exposure risk of cross-contamination between the table and the food being prepared and vice versa. This food safety issue is the primary concern with an unclean surface. A preparation table is used for several food operations, such as preparing both raw foods and ready-to-eat food products. 

Potentially present food contaminants may transfer from the raw material to the preparation table. Without cleaning and sanitation in between preparing different types of food, contaminants can freely transfer from one food ingredient to another.

In addition, liquid spills and food residues on the food contact surface may dry out and stick to the contact surface. Removing visibly large food debris may reduce the risk of contamination, but the dried fluids may still have the contaminants.


FoodDocs food safety system-1


What do restaurants use to sanitize tables?

The general sanitizing solution used in restaurant food prep tables is diluted bleach water or chlorinated detergents. Alternative to a solution of chlorine bleach, restaurants also use quaternary ammonium salts or scalding hot water for sanitation as well. The important thing is that the utilized sanitizer has a potent antimicrobial activity.

The type of sanitizer used in a restaurant is often a personal choice of the food safety team. What matters in sanitation is its proper application. For the sanitizer activity to be effective, the following factors must be satisfied:

  • Clean surface. The initial contamination load of the surface can significantly affect the effectiveness of the sanitizer. High levels of bacterial growth may sometimes be harder to control. That is why manual operations of cleaning the surface must be done prior to sanitation.
  • Proper concentration. Sanitizer concentrations determine if the solution will be able to kill foodborne bacteria. A very concentrated solution of sanitizer may be dangerous for application in a restaurant setting. As such, the sanitizer must be in a dilute form, just enough to kill harmful bacteria while being food-safe. Dangerous detergent formulations may increase the risk of chemical food poisoning.
  • Contact time. The exposure time of microorganisms with sanitizers allows the solution to penetrate colonies of bacteria. The effectiveness of sanitization requires the sanitizers to be in contact with the surface and the potentially present pathogens. Doubling exposure time may be more effective for sanitation if the process is not very time sensitive.

Other factors that may affect the effectiveness and activity of sanitizer include the temperature of used water, pH, and the table's type of material. The loss of activity at temperatures and pH values below the recommended range is common in some sanitizers. The bactericidal activity of chlorine sanitizers, for example, significantly changes depending on the pH and temperature of the water.

Each sanitizing solution will vary in concentration and contact time. For example, chlorine or bleach solution is generally used at 100 ppm concentration and applied for at least two to 5 minutes. On the other hand, squats or quaternary ammonium salts-based solutions are generally advised to be used at 200 ppm with at least 1 minute contact time.

For sanitation to become effective, the contact surface being sanitized must first be cleaned of any visible debris or food. Sanitizers can only remove pathogens that it comes in contact with. Large food debris or dried food liquids can obstruct the effect of sanitizer.

There are several types of detergents and sanitizers in the food industry. Some are alkaline detergents and acid detergents. The food industry imposes a strict protocol for approved sanitizers on metal surfaces to minimize safety risks and regulatory concerns. Only food-grade sanitizers that are approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must be used in food businesses. 


sanitize and disinfect food prep table


Disinfectants approved by the EPA usually have the following active form of ingredients:

  • Hypochlorites
  • Quaternary ammonium
  • Chlorine dioxide
  • Peroxyacetic acid
  • Iodophors

These active ingredients are presented on the label of solutions. They will determine the sanitizer's reaction to microorganisms. Review the effectiveness of the sanitizer you are using and the range of microorganisms it is effective against. An ideal chemical sanitizer would be able to kill a wide range of pathogens.

Similarly, the effectiveness of every sanitizer, while considering safety, can only be achieved with the correct minimum concentration. Correct use of concentration also ensures that the food in contact with sanitized tables will remain safe.


How long does it take to sanitize a table?

The sanitation process of tables will depend on the manufacturer's instructions on the sanitizer you are using. The most common contact time recommended by sanitizer manufacturers varies between 30 and 15 minutes

Concentrated sanitizers require less contact time, whereas diluted ones must stay on the table longer. Contact time refers to how long a solution is required to stay on the sanitized surface to effectively inactivate target pathogens. 

During sanitation, the preparation table must remain wet with the sanitizer, and drying must naturally occur after a prep table is cleaned and sanitized. Similar to utensils, drying must occur naturally without the aid of a kitchen towel to prevent recontamination of the surface.


How do you disinfect a wooden table?

Unlike the stainless steel tables used in the restaurant kitchen for food preparation, the front-of-the-house tables usually use wooden tables. Disinfection of wooden tables works slightly differently when compared with stainless tables. Wooden tables cannot be soaked with water or liquid solutions for long, or that can damage the table.


Follow these steps to disinfect a wooden table:

  • The tables must first be cleaned of food debris.
  • Wipe the unclean surface with a clean microfiber cloth and soapy water solution. 
  • Dry the tables with a disposable paper towel.
  • Spray diluted chlorine solution on the tables for disinfection. Allow the cleaning solution on the table for the recommended contact time.
  • Dry the tables with a disposable, clean paper towel.

Unlike preparation tables, the turnover on wooden service tables is faster. Disinfection cannot take too long and must be wiped down quickly. Only paper towels or sanitized disposable cloth towels can be used to maintain the sanitized state of the tables. This ensures that the tables stay sanitized even after wiping. 


disinfecting a wooden table


How do you clean a wood table naturally?

Although uncommonly used as a preparation table, some food businesses may use a wooden table. This material is also the common choice for service tables.

If you are a believer in natural products for sanitation and you do not want to use any commercial sanitizer chemical agent, you can use natural sanitizers for a wooden table. You can use vinegar, water, and essential oils or soap solutions. 

You cannot use the hot water sanitization process for sanitizing a wood table as this may cause the wood to swell. To use this alternative and a natural sanitizer in food processing, follow these steps:

  1. Mix 2 parts tap water with 1 part vinegar and a few drops of liquid soap or essential oil.
  2. Wipe the table clean and remove any pieces of food particles or liquid.
  3. Spray the wooden table with the solution.
  4. Wipe off the solution with a microfiber cloth.
  5. Repeat processes 2 to 4 until the new set of clean cloth towels comes out clean.

It is very important to test whether the solution, at the concentration you are using it, is effective and up to the standards of regulatory agencies. Ensure that the solution you use has enough germicidal activity against gram-positive and gram-negative microorganisms.


Can hand sanitizer be used on tables?

You can use hand sanitizers on tables, especially if we are talking about service tables. Despite this, there may be a few problems that may result from using hand sanitizers on tables.

For one, hand sanitizers are more expensive than industrial, food-grade sanitizers. Using them can cost you a lot. Another problem is that some hand sanitizers may not be food-grade or approved by food agencies for use on food contact surfaces. There are a lot of hand sanitizers that are scented, which can transfer to the food served or prepared on the table.


What is the third step in cleaning and sanitizing a prep table?

The steps in cleaning a table include the following:

  1. Remove visible debris of food on the table manually.
  2. Wipe the table with a soapy solution to remove oils and dried food liquids.
  3. Rinse the table with warm water to remove any residual detergent or soap.
  4. Apply sanitizer on the clean table and allow the sanitizer to remain in contact with the table for the recommended durations.
  5. Allow the sanitizer to air dry naturally. After a prep table has been cleaned and sanitized, the surface must be allowed to naturally dry to avoid decontamination.


When to sanitize a food preparation table?

A food preparation table is often used in a restaurant kitchen, so there may be very few windows to insert a sanitation operation. Despite this, food preparation table sanitation is a must. 

Cleaning and sanitation of food preparation tables must be performed in instances such as the following:

  • Sanitize the table before and after starting a shift.
  • Clean tables when working with a new batch or different types of fresh produce or raw materials (e.g., switching from raw meat to ready-to-eat bread).
  • Sanitize after at least four hours of constant use.
  • Whenever preparation tables will not be in use for long.


Regular sanitation is part of every food safety plan or food processing cleaning regime and is an essential operation that will keep food safety controlled. Failure to disinfect tables and other high-traffic areas can lead to unwanted food safety concerns such as attracting pests or causing food poisoning.


A digital solution for cleaning and sanitation of restaurants

Food sanitation includes cleaning all food contact surfaces and a wide range of activities to maintain a conducive environment for preparing food. Resides on food contact surfaces and failure to sanitize food prep tables are common ingredients for food safety issues. Food handlers must be well oriented in sanitizing tables and other food contact surfaces in the establishment. 

At FoodDocs, we have created a smart digital solution that can help food handlers remember to perform essential operations such as cleaning and food sanitation. In addition, our digital solution can also help guide food handlers on how to perform these food handling operations correctly.

With the help of our digital Food Safety Management System, your team can get the following features that can be helpful in making your food sanitation operations more efficient:

  • Our digital solution can help you use automatically generated monitoring forms and checklists. Particularly for food sanitation, we can provide you with an automatically generated sanitation checklist and a master sanitation schedule.

  • Using our smart notification system that comes with our mobile application, food handlers can be alerted when to perform a food safety task. Using this feature, our system can automatically remind food handlers of sanitation tasks.

  • Our digital monitoring forms come with detailed instructions on how to perform monitoring and the particular operation being monitored. With this feature, onboarding new employees and training your staff can become easier and more proactive.



In addition to features that are helpful for employees, our digital solution also offers features to help food safety managers supervise your team:

  • Our digital Food Safety Management System only takes 15 minutes to set up. The whole process would only require you to answer a few questions about your operations.

  • You can get a real-time dashboard that will reflect an overview of your entire business operations. This feature can help you save at least 20% of your time supervising your team. Use this dashboard to remotely identify areas that need more attention.

  • Get digital cloud storage where you can store all of your digital documents and easily organize and access them whenever needed.

Our digital solution can help you achieve more efficiency in achieving food safety compliance. You would need to worry less if your employees are doing the operations correctly as we provide detailed instructions to them.

The whole process of switching to our digital solution can be achieved in a matter of minutes and a few clicks. With the help of artificial intelligence and a machine learning program, our system can intuitively generate the important food safety documents you need. In addition, you can customize these documents to further fit your operations. 

If you want to experience our services, you can get a firsthand feel with our free 14-day trial. Join our list of more than 20,000 customers who are enjoying food safety compliance with our digital solution. 



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