Garbage Containers and Food Safety for Food Handlers
Garbage can spread disease-causing organisms called pathogens and attracts pests.
This is why it’s important to dispose of garbage safely and keep the containers and the surrounding area clean.
This article explains everything you need to know about garbage containers — both inside and outside — and food safety.
Inside garbage containers
A dirty, overflowing garbage container can be a possible source of contamination to food, equipment, and utensils, and attract and harbor pests like insects and rodents.
Thus, regularly cleaning the garbage containers and the areas around them is an essential food safety practice.
You don’t need to sanitize the containers since they are not a food-contact surface, but you should wash them with a detergent, being careful not to contaminate nearby food or food-contact surfaces in the process.
There isn’t a required frequency in which you must clean them, but you should do so often enough to prevent the buildup of food and other debris (1).
When the trash is full, take it out as soon as possible.
Don’t set the garbage on a table or any other food-contact surface — take it straight to the outside garbage.
Even though the garbage may be secured, there’s a chance that the bag may be contaminated — whether from food spills, a dirty garbage can, or other reason.
Because you have to touch several unsanitized surfaces to take out the garbage, always wash your hands properly after.
Don’t store food, dishes, utensils, clean towels, or single-service items like napkins in a garbage room — if your kitchen has one — since doing so can cause cross-contamination.
Your kitchen likely has several conveniently located garbage containers.
Make sure they have properly secured lids if they are not in constant use and never place them so that they block handwashing stations.
Regularly wash inside garbage containers, take the trash out as soon as it’s full, and keep them covered when not in constant use.
Outside garbage containers
Outside garbage containers are an easy target for pests.
For this reason, they should have a tight-fitting lid to cover or prevent the scattering of the garbage by birds, the breeding of flies, or entry of rodents.
Keep the lids or covers closed at all times.
Regularly clean the outside of the garbage container and the area around it. The surface on which the outside garbage containers sit should be constructed of a material that is smooth, durable, nonabsorbent like concrete or asphalt to allow easy cleaning.
Smooth, durable, and nonabsorbent are the same characteristics that floors, walls, and ceilings must have (1).
The surface should be slightly sloped away from the garbage container to prevent waste water from pooling.
Just as you should regularly take out the trash when it’s full, the same is true for the outside trash.
And don’t forget to wash your hands when you return to the kitchen.
Based on the amount of trash your kitchen generates, your manager should have the outside containers emptied on a regular basis to minimize odors and attraction of pests.
Outside garbage containers should have drain plugs in place to prevent leakage, which could also attract pests.
Keep the outside garbage containers and the surrounding area clean. Keep the lids closed at all times and make sure the drain plug is in place to deter pests.
The bottom line
Dirty, poorly maintained garbage containers can be a source of contamination and attract unwanted pests.
Regularly clean garbage containers and the areas around them.
Take garbage out as soon as it’s full and keep lids on containers when you’re not using them constantly. Always wash your hands after taking the garbage out.
The lids or covers of outside garbage containers should also be kept closed. Make sure there is a drain plug in place.
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