Disinfectants at Risk

From August 2015, levels of chemicals in food preparation areas will need to be monitored in order to reduce cross-contamination under the EU Biocidal Products Regulation. This means that all caterers will need to examine how they are using chemicals in disinfection to ensure they are not contravening the law by having higher than permitted levels in food.

Many caterers use disinfectants or sanitisers called Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QAC’s) in their kitchens. QAC’s are highly effective and make for easy-to-use cleaning products when combined with good detergents.

However using QAC’s near the presence of food runs the risk of harmful contamination. The EU Biocidal Products Regulation of 2012 (EU 528/2012) required maximum residue levels (MRL’s) to be established for substances including chemicals commonly used for disinfection purposes in kitchens. An MRL is the highest level of a pesticide residue legally tolerated in food when pesticides are applied correctly. As of August 2015, legislation changes have reduced the MRL for QAC’s.

The recent reduction in the accepted level of QAC’s in foods has immediately affected manufacturers using such chemicals to clean food contact surfaces. All food businesses and caterers will also need to examine how they are using QAC’s for disinfection to ensure they are not contravening the law by having higher than permitted levels in food.

The good news for caterers is that many surfaces, including worktops and hand-contact surfaces like fridge doors, do not actually come into contact with food and can be cleaned and disinfected as normal. However members will need to identify new best practice tactics or consider using alternative products for any items that come into contact with food.

The BHA therefore offers the following best practice suggestions for caterers in light of the legislative changes:

  • Whenever possible, use the dishwasher to disinfect food-contact surfaces and utensils.
  • Where it is not possible to use a dishwasher for food contact items, use another type of disinfection. Speak to your chemical supplier for advice.
  • Surfaces not in direct contact with food can be cleaned as normal. QACs are very effective against unwelcome organisms such as Listeria, Campylobacter and coli, and can be used on hand-contact surfaces and counters.
  • Rinsing hand-contact surfaces and counters after disinfecting is unnecessary and may introduce new hazards.

The BHA understands that a chemical supplier has told some members they should purchase water spray bottles for rinsing surfaces after disinfection. After discussion with a representative from the British Association for Chemical Specialities (BACS), we do not advocate the purchase of such spray bottles and share the following concerns regarding rinsing after disinfection:

  • If rinses are applied too soon after the application of disinfectant, the actual disinfection could be reduced.
  • Unless the spray bottles are themselves disinfected, bacteria and mould could build up inside the bottles when water is not sterile.
  • Cross contamination can occur when bottles aren’t appropriately labelled. For example, labels such as “raw meat prep only” and “ready-to-eat prep only” are currently used for disinfectant bottles and are required for controlling coli.

For further information:





For any other queries, please contact Lucy Aldrich-Smith, BHA Policy Manager, at lucy@bha.org.uk


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