Sanitizers are designed to reduce or kill 99.9 to 99.999 percent of listed bacterial micro-organisms on — and this is important — pre-cleaned surfaces. For surfaces where sanitizers are needed, managers can choose between two general products: food contact sanitizers and non-food contact options.

According to product manufacturers, food-contact sanitizers are part of a three step process. First, staff cleans the surface, it is rinsed and then the sanitizer is applied. These chemicals are most commonly used in food service areas on meat slicers, cutting boards and food prep tables — surfaces that come into contact with food.

“Sanitizers are generally associated with food service, where workers must reduce the micro-organisms to a level that is safe,” says Glenn Rothstein, president of Bio-Shine Inc. in Spotswood, N.J.

To accomplish this, managers train staff on chemical dwell times, which vary between sanitizers and disinfectants.

Although product advancements are entering the marketplace regularly, traditionally, sanitizer dwell times are considerably shorter than those for disinfectants, which can be up to 10 minutes.  Rothstein says that workers using sanitizers can accomplish safe levels of surface micro-organisms in 30 seconds to one minute, although some products take 5 minutes.

Non-food contact sanitizers are used in two steps. First, the surface needs to be cleaned, then it is sanitized. These sanitizers are available but not widely used, say manufacturers, mainly because sanitizers have no anti-viral claims, offering no confidence of killing the flu or other viruses found on surfaces.

“When you sanitize, you are killing/reducing the bacteria on that surface, but doing nothing about viruses and fungus,” says one Wis.-based chemical manufacturer. “Sanitizing is better than cleaning alone, but the reduction of pathogen populations on surfaces is exponentially better when you use disinfectants.”

LISA RIDGELY is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee, Wis.

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