Monthly Archives: June 2014

Top 5 Kitchen Hygiene Nightmares

Hygiene is very important in a kitchen because this is where food is prepared. Unfortunately a lot of kitchens are less than hygienic, which can lead to all kinds of nasty problems such as food poisoning. In a domestic kitchen, this is not so much of a problem. After all, you only have yourself to blame if you end up with a bad stomach as a result of failing to clean up regularly. But in a commercial kitchen, poor hygiene can lead to all kinds of issues. Customers may end up sick, the restaurant manager/owner fined lots of money, business suffers, and in the long term the premises could be shut down. So what are the five kitchen hygiene issues that you need to be aware of?

Grease and Grime

Unless all you ever do is prepare a salad or two, grease is unlikely to build up on work surfaces, machinery and kitchen storage areas. Grease in turn attracts dirt and dust, which is why kitchens need to be cleaned thoroughly every day. Grease can be tackled with hot, soapy water and de-greasing cleansing solutions. Ideally work surfaces should be easy to clean and free from cracks and other imperfections where grime and grease can build up. For this reason, stainless steel or commercial grade Proclad uPVC panels, counter tops and splashbacks are the most effective materials for a commercial kitchen.

Vermin on the Loose

Rats, mice, ants, cockroaches, and other nasty creatures are not normally welcome in a kitchen, the reason being that they spread disease and contaminate food. The best way to avoid an infestation of vermin is to keep your kitchen clean and tidy. Pests tend to frequent places where there is a ready supply of food, so if you drop scraps on the floor, leave food uncovered or in an easily accessible location, you are asking for trouble.

Wash Your Hands!

Anyone preparing food should wash their hands before handling food, in between handling raw food and other ingredients, and after visiting the toilet. Basically you should wash your hands before you do anything, just to be sure.

Food Storage Disasters

Food needs to be stored correctly at all times. Meat, dairy and fresh food should be stored in a temperature controlled environment and dry food is best stored in sealed containers to avoid contamination from insects and vermin. Raw food needs to be kept separately from cooked food to avoid cross contamination problems.

Flaky Walls

In an ideal world, kitchens would be spotless with immaculate walls, floors and ceilings. Sadly this is not always the case and it is not uncommon to see uneven floors, cracked tiles and flaking paint in areas where food is prepared. This type of problem can be avoided by keeping up with a maintenance schedule or replacing worn tiles and flooring with purpose designed PVC panels for a more hygienic finish.

Don’t wait until you have a ‘surprise’ visit from your local environmental health inspector before addressing serious kitchen hygiene issues. Deal with issues before they become a threat to your business—your customers will thank you.

Easy ways to refresh your bathroom

We’ve all been there: the bathroom desperately needs a redo, but you just can’t face the prospect of signing it away for a week and letting the plumbers wreak havoc. So what happens? It gets put on hold. We’ll sort it next spring. It can wait until the new year. Yet many people are now reaping the benefits of quick, easy solutions, that can in many cases be done as DIY projects, and completed in just a couple of days.

I can see for tiles and tiles

Tiling is a guaranteed remodelling technique. Those guarantees include: hours spent fixing tiles to the wall; grout becoming a future home for dirt and mould; one cracked piece ruining an otherwise pristine wall. Plenty of companies now offer large panels which essentially replace the job of tiles, for a fraction of the installation time. The installation method is pretty much the same, but instead of making up an entire wall with numerous small parts, the entire height of the wall is covered in one go. Here’s a tip: be sure to ask for a sample from your provider, and then give it a solid whack. Much as with the aforementioned cracked tile, there’s nothing worse than slipping in the shower and having your elbow go straight through a cheap, fragile panel. Make sure you know you’re buying quality; check for companies with a reputation for after sales care.

It’s all about the little things

As tempting as it might seem to tear out an entire suite and start from scratch, consider that it might be the smallest items that make the biggest difference. What will guests see more of when they step into your bathroom: the shower unit that’s past its best, or the curtain and/or screen that covers it? Instead of replacing your old windows, perhaps a different set of blinds, or new lights, might give you the effect you’re looking for? You might resent your nasty old toilet, but perhaps those marks are rust residue caused by the ageing screws of your toilet seat? Try small changes first before committing to any larger project ideas.

You’ve lost that loving ceiling

A traditional hotspot for damp and mould to meet and greet, your ceiling can be reclaimed and made mould-proof, and in an easier fashion than you might think. The “usual” method – dry it out, scrub it away, and repaint – is basically resetting to zero and allowing the problem to begin all over again. Tongue-and-groove PVC ceiling planks are your solution here: PVC is essentially damp-proof, so while you’d still dry out and scrub away any existing problematic areas, you would then seal away the newly dry and mould-free ceiling with a mould-resistant covering. Sounds like a tough job? So long as the existing ceiling is substantial enough to be screwed into, then this is extremely straightforward. Fix one panel at a time, with the screws going into the groove sections. When you come to slot the next panel into place, the tongue will cover up the screws. Plus, if your ceiling is the victim of a trend or fad from yesteryear (artex, we’re looking at you) you can fix battens first and then simply screw into those. Job done!

Health and Hygiene Down on the Farm

Several hundred years ago, farming was a family enterprise and farms were fairly small in size with a few cattle, some sheep, goats and chickens. But times have changed and today’s commercial farms are vast and run very much as a business. Many farms have hundreds of cattle and sheep, not to mention sheds full of poultry, and with so many animals living in close proximity to one another, health, welfare and hygiene is a major consideration.

The Dangers of Intensive Farming

Intensive farming has become the norm over the course of the last one hundred years. The world’s population is increasing daily and there are a lot of hungry mouths to feed. Intensive farming is able to produce large amounts of milk, eggs and meat, but the cost is often high. Many believe that intensive farming poses a huge risk to the health of humans and animals. And if health and hygiene rules are not adhered to, we could be facing a major health crisis in years to come.

Cattle and Milk Production

Milk is sterile whilst inside cows’ udders, but the process of milking cows by machine can easily introduce infection and contamination, which is bad news for the cow and for the end consumer of milk taken from the cow. Milk hygiene needs to be addressed on many levels.

  • Milk extracted from cows with mastitis is full of bacteria and should be discarded.
  • Cows need to be grazed on good quality pasture and housed in clean sheds.
  • Udders should be clean before the milking equipment is attached.
  • Milking equipment should be kept scrupulously clean to prevent bacterial contamination.
  • The person doing the milking should also have clean hands.

Dairy Hygiene

Milking and other ancillary equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after every milking, preferably in a purpose built dairy. The dairy needs to be clean and hygienic at all times or clean equipment will soon become contaminated. Commercial grade Proclad PVC panels are well suited to a dairy environment because they can easily be cleaned and disinfected.

Disease Prevention

Under the right circumstances, milk is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. If equipment is cleaned, disinfected and dried as soon as possible after milking, the risk of bacterial contamination is very low. Poorly maintained equipment left wet in temperatures of more than 20 degrees Celsius is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which will lead to contamination and disease.

Hygiene on Open Farms

Lots of smaller-scale farms are happy to let visitors come and see the animals and get some useful insight into modern farming techniques. Unfortunately, the risk of infection is high and measures need to be put in place to prevent children and vulnerable adults contracting nasty infections such as E-coli and Cryptosporidium. Proper hand washing is essential and all visitors to farms should be told to wash their hands before and touching animals and equipment.

As well as ensuring hygiene in animals and milking equipment, farmers must also take steps to control vermin such as rodents, birds and insects in milk storage areas. Cows also need to be kept in good health.

Top Tips for Maintaining Kitchen Cleanliness in a Fast Food Kitchen

Fast food restaurants and takeaways don’t always have the best press when it comes to hygiene and cleanliness. From rat infested kitchens to meat of unknown origin, there are plenty of reasons why some takeaways should be shut down on the spot. But just because food is cooked fast and the evening shift is manic, it doesn’t mean that a fast food restaurant or kebab shop shouldn’t be clean and hygienic. If basic food hygiene principles are followed, all will be well in the world.

Clean and Tidy Staff

Flipping burgers and cooking pizzas all night long is hot work, but there is no excuse for wearing a dirty, grease stained uniform and letting your hair drop into the food. Yes, kitchen employees need to be clean and tidy when preparing food for human consumption. This means keeping hair tied up, wearing clean clothes, and washing hands before and after handling food, and in particular raw meat.

Rats Not Allowed

Random testing on the origin of meat at several takeaways in London revealed that meat purporting to be lamb and chicken was in many cases far from it. Some was identified as horse, cat and dog—unpleasant but at least they are considered to be edible in some parts of the world. Unfortunately, some samples couldn’t be identified at all, which is a lot more worrying. Ideally rats and mice should always be kept out of fast food kitchens. Please note, however, that they should also be kept off the menu.

Mop Up the Grease

Grease is an unfortunate by-product of meat based dishes. It is also common to find large amounts of cooking grease in kitchens where food is deep fried. So if you are running a takeaway that sells fish, chips, burgers and meat products, there is likely to be lots of grease to clean up. You could ignore the mess and go home early, but cleaning will be a lot harder if you do. Once grease and fat has had a chance to accumulate, it attracts dirt and dust. It also becomes a magnet for nasty pests, which is never good in a kitchen environment.

Wipe Down Surfaces

Worktops and any other surface that comes into contact with food needs to be kept scrupulously clean. Everything should be wiped down with hot, soapy water and disinfected regularly. This will help prevent bacterial contamination and the spread of disease. Kitchen utensils should be washed in hot soapy water and dried before storing somewhere clean. Worn utensils need to be replaced once they have reached the end of their life.

Sick Rules

Feeling poorly is no fun at all, especially when you have to work. However, when your job involves working with food, it is a really good idea to stay at home until you are fully recovered. Sniffling and sneezing into the chips is very unhygienic and if you happen to be afflicted with a gastrointestinal bug, there is a very real possibility that your germs will spread far and wide, which isn’t good for business.

A fast food kitchen is no different to any other type of kitchen. Hygiene and cleanliness are important, so make sure you don’t neglect either of them. And if your walls and work surfaces are in poor condition, install some Proclad panels to improve hygiene levels and make cleaning easier.

Top 5 Reasons Why Hotel Guests Leave Bad Reviews

Hotels vary wildly in their standards and even the hotels with a 5* rating are not guaranteed to be much better than a 3* budget hotel. Because of this, most people read traveller reviews before they make a booking. It is a good way of weeding out the poor performers before you hand over your hard earned cash on a four-day mini break to Barcelona. So what are the main reasons why people leave awful reviews on sites such as Trip Advisor?

1. Sub-Standard Bedrooms

Although you may not be planning on spending a huge amount of time in your hotel room, it helps if the time you do spend in it is comfortable. At the very least you should expect to find a comfortable, clean bed, a few drawers and a wardrobe, and a television. You may also have a kettle and tea/coffee making facilities, hair dryer and other useful gadgets. What you shouldn’t see are cobwebs, dust, unpleasant stains on the bed, and any other unmentionables.

2. Unclean Bathrooms

Bathrooms are another area of discontent in hotel reviews. Mouldy shower curtains, grubby baths, unclean, stained toilet bowls, broken toilet seats, cracked mirrors, dirty grout between tiles—you name it, they are all to be found in some hotels. Many hotel bathrooms have seen much better days, so it is hardly surprising that guests are quick to complain when the facilities don’t reach their expectations.

3. Poor Service

Service is just as important as clean facilities. Nobody wants to be served by rude staff and that kind of attitude is guaranteed to ensure a bad rating at the end of the stay. From the moment a guest checks in at the reception, they should be made to feel welcome rather than an inconvenience. The same applies if they have a problem at any point during their stay—staff should be helpful and accommodating at all times.

4. Dodgy Food

There is nothing worse than spending a fortune on a break in a luxurious hotel, only to find that the food is inedible, or it tasted great but you are now bedridden with a dose of salmonella food poisoning. Either way food is often a major gripe. Sub-standard, badly cooked food can make the difference between a nice stay and an awful one. Unfortunately, this one often goes hand in hand with bad service, so not only do guests end up waiting for their food for hours but when it does finally show up, it is cold and unappetising.

5. Excessive Noise

Unless you are a party animal, you probably don’t want to be woken up at 4AM by other guests stumbling down the corridor outside your room, singing and shouting. The same applies to traffic noise or building work outside. This type of experience will hardly put you in a happy frame of mind when the time comes to write a review.

Don’t let bad reviews ruin your hotel’s reputation—ensure guests are able to enjoy hygienic bathrooms with Proclad panels installed in the shower areas. Add in some excellent service and they will definitely want to come back next year.

Environmental Health Horror Stories to Make Your Hair Curl

Most of us don’t think about what’s happening behind the scenes when we order food from a restaurant or takeaway menu. But perhaps you might after you read some of the horror stories below. And if you order a salad and it comes scattered with some peculiar black lumps, they might not be herbs…

Rat Mayhem!

Most restaurant owners would have a heart attack if a rat appeared in their kitchen whilst their premises were being inspected by an environmental health inspector. But one restaurant owner in Wandsworth decided to take matters into his own hands by dealing with the rodent immediately. The rat was dispatched violently, but sadly this wasn’t the end of the horror story. Yet more rats appeared and upon closer inspection, rat and mice droppings were found all over food preparation surfaces. There were even chew marks on chicken bones! Definitely not a place to buy your local takeaway from!

Filthy Chinese Restaurant

A popular Chinese restaurant in Merseyside was almost shut down on the spot when environmental health inspectors conducted a repeat inspection and discovered that things had worsened since their last visit. The catalogue of horrors inside the restaurant’s kitchens included a serious build up of grease and food debris, particularly on the floors. Walls were in a state of disrepair, plus raw and cooked food was found placed together. Kitchen staff showed poor levels of personal hygiene and rat droppings were found in food storage areas. The manager was fined £24k.

Curry House Horror

Mouldy chopping boards, a broken fridge and milk container full of black mould are just a few of the horrors discovered inside the kitchen of a curry house in Leicester. Four day old cooked meat was still being served to customers and there was no hot water for staff to wash their hands. Shelves and floors were covered in grease and food debris; in fact the only thing the kitchen did have going for it was that there was no evidence of rats! The owner was fined and the restaurant is now under new management.

Mouldy Food

An Indian restaurant in Hull was found in a very poor state of hygiene. There was mouldy food on the premises and a cooked chicken sitting in a sink. Poppadums were stored next to a bin and shish kebabs were sitting on a draining board next to an extractor fan. Staff had had no hygiene training and despite repeated warnings, conditions failed to improve. In fact the restaurant scored an impressive ‘0’ in their report, which takes some doing!

Deceased Mice in Residence

A curry house in London was found to have three decaying mice and a live cockroach in the kitchen when an environmental health inspector showed up. In fact the inspector discovered that not one part of the kitchen or basement area was free from pesky little rodents. There were even mice droppings in the salad! The business subsequently closed down after customers deserted it.

Hygiene is paramount in a busy kitchen, which is why environmental health inspectors make regular visits to commercial premises. So rather than putting customers’ lives at risk make sure you have rigorous health and hygiene polices in place and consider installing low maintenance Proclad PVC panels for easy cleaning.

How to Improve Your Trip Advisor Rating

A poor Trip Advisor rating can do real damage to a pub or eatery. Unfortunately, once there are a few bad reviews about your business, they will remain there forever. People invariably go online to check reviews before they book these days, so if a large number of previous customers have left unhappy or critical reviews, they will think twice before going to the venue. The best way to avoid this from happening to your business is to ensure the service you provide is top notch. That way nobody will feel the need to leave a terrible review on Trip Advisor.

Service with a Smile

Happy, welcoming staff will go a long way towards diffusing any issues before they develop into full-scale conflicts. When faced with a warm smile, most people respond in the same manner. It’s human nature. Of course the opposite is also true. If your employees are grumpy, sour-faced and downright hostile, customers are not likely to want to come back for more of the same treatment. So make sure you only employ people who are warm and friendly, or the reviews won’t be fantastic.

Delicious Food

Food is an important selling point for many successful pubs and eateries. Customers come from miles around to enjoy a bite to eat in convivial surroundings. However, this is entirely dependent on the quality of the menu and if the food you dish up is less than tasty, you won’t enjoy much in the way of repeat custom. You don’t need to serve anything as complicated as Heston Blumenthal. If it’s a country pub, stick to plain but tasty food. As long as your menu tastes great and is good value, customers will be happy.

Hygiene Matters

Never underestimate the importance of running a clean and hygienic place of business. For one thing you could end up being fined if you fail to adhere to hygiene legislation, and for another, you may end up poisoning customers, which is not good for your Trip Advisor rating. Make sure your kitchen is clean and that your employees understand the importance of good hygiene. Clean kitchens with hygienic work surfaces, for example Proclad PVC panels, are paramount, even in the tiniest of pubs.

The Customer is Always Right

If a customer complains, give him or her benefit of the doubt and go the extra mile to try and put things right. And if a customer leaves a poor review on Trip Advisor, respond to their complaint and see if there is anything you can do to make it better next time.

Every Little Extra Helps

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there so anything you can do to set your business apart from the competition could be enough to score you a great review on Trip Advisor. Think freebies and extra perks. You don’t have to throw money away, but a freebie here and there will make customers feel like they are getting extra value for money.

Don’t despair if you have a few bad ratings on Trip Advisor. See it as an opportunity to improve your service so that you don’t keep making the same mistakes.

How to Prevent the Spread of Mould and Mildew

Mould and mildew are common in damp environments. Black spots on the shower curtains and mould around the edge of the bath are unsightly and bad for your health. Unfortunately moisture problems are common in bathrooms, washrooms and any other places where there are high humidity levels. So how can mould and mildew problems be prevented?

Health Risks Associated with Mould and Mildew

Mould spores can cause all kinds of health problem in those who are allergic to them. Children and people with lung disease or compromised immune systems will also be sensitive to the presence of mould and mildew. People with asthma may find it hard to breathe in rooms where mould has been allowed to grow unchecked. In serious cases, mould can cause an asthma attack. In fact any which way you look at it, mould is not good for our health.

Where does Mould and Mildew Grow?

Mould and mildew love damp environments, so it is common to see mould spots and mildew stains in bathrooms and kitchens. However, mould will grow anywhere if the conditions are right, so carpets, furniture, walls and floors are all acceptable breeding grounds for mould spores.

Prevention Tactics

Tackling mould and mildew is a two step process:  clean up the mould and mildew and then cure the underlying cause.

  • Ventilation – Washrooms and other damp environments need adequate ventilation at all times. Extractor fans are ideal for shower areas and if you have air conditioning, use it. Clean out air vents regularly so that they can do their job.
  • Heating – Cold environments encourage the formation of mould and mildew. Cold air doesn’t retain moisture well. Moisture condenses on cold surfaces, which encourages mould. Try turning up the heat during cold weather if mould is a problem in your home.
  • Clean surfaces regularly – If mould and mildew are an issue, it is a good idea to clean problem areas as often as possible to prevent a build up. Consider replacing traditional ceramic tiles with mould resistant Proclad uPVC panels as this makes it easier to clean large areas.
  • Improve air circulation – Open windows and leave doors open between rooms to encourage air to move around more.
  • Humidity – Use a dehumidifier if humidity levels are higher than 60% (you can check this using a hygrometer).
  • Leaks – Look for leaks around sinks, baths, and showers, and if there are any, repair them as soon as possible.
  • Insulation – Ensure outside walls and other surfaces are well insulated to prevent condensation from building up.
  • Drying clothes – Don’t dry wet clothes on radiators as this can make damp problems worse. Instead use a tumble drier that vents to the outside or hang wet clothes on a clothes line outdoors when weather permits.

Mould and mildew can be highly destructive if left untreated. Over time damp and mildew will ruin soft furnishings and carpets. It looks unsightly and if you don’t deal with the problem it will get a whole lot worse.

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