Preventing Foodborne Illnesses in Nursing Homes

Today I want to discuss an often-overlooked area of infection prevention and control. Food services is an area that we sometimes easily forget about because it is not on our clinical radar. Because we strive to keep infections from spreading in our facilities, there are questions we need to ask regarding food service such as regarding dishwasher temps and cleaning chemicals. Doing so will also keep us compliant for our state surveys.

Just like a restaurant kitchen, we need to prevent foodborne illness from occurring within our facilities.  Protocols are relatively simpler, compared to the clinical side of infection control and shouldn’t take long to check.

First, check that your facility has a clear distinction between your clean area, where food is prepared and served and your dirty receiving area

The dishwasher is also an easy item to ensure is running effectively. If you are using a hot water or cold water dishwasher make sure the temperatures are reaching the manufacturer’s IFU (instructions for use) by using an indicator strip before or during each meal service. Effectively cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing the dishware is obviously key. Be sure that you are recording the results of the indicator strip This will keep your facility in compliance and verify the process is being completed as it needs to everyday. Remember that state citations can be issued if this is not appropriately recorded

Be sure the meal carts are cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized in-between each meal service.

Dealing with surveyors, visitor screening, navigating the re-use of PPE, hand hygiene compliance, and a myriad of other challenges, adding another area like food services can be a lot. So many facilities are overwhelmed right now trying to keep residents and staff safe while staying in compliance. Thank you to all our healthcare worker superheroes out there. Be safe and be well.

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