Hygienic and functional shelving systems are key elements of a safe and well-organized healthcare foodservice operation. Although not required, more healthcare foodservice operators are choosing solid shelf plates for the bottom shelf level for sanitary reasons. Accrediting agencies such as the Joint Commission, DNV and HFAP do not have standards that speak directly to this issue, but that does not settle the discussion. A lot depends on what is being stored and which authority having jurisdiction is looking at the issue.
Bottom Line on Risks
There are infection control standards that require the hospital to identify risks in the environment that might transmit infections. Some items such as food and sterilized goods can become contaminated if they are stored on the lower shelf that does not have a solid bottom, mostly due to moisture that could be absorbed from the floor or mops. This is commonly a local or state department of public health requirement, to have solid bottom shelves for food items and/or clean or sterilized supplies. However, any of the accrediting agencies could cite a hospital under their infection control standards if this risk to infection is not identified and mitigated. Our advice would be to contact your local and state departments of public health and ask them what their requirements are.
“One of the first things health department surveyors look for in a healthcare facility is the cleanliness of not just the food pans but also what they are stored on,” says Eric Van Kruiningen, Food Services and Nutrition Manager of Christian Health Care Center, Wyckoff, N.J. This is why the 532- bed facility selected Camshelving, rust-free shelving for their walk-in coolers, freezers, dry storage and warewashing areas. These units feature removable shelf plates designed with an anti-microbial protection that inhibits the growth of bacteria and can easily be run through the dishwasher.
Removing the Risk
- Having removable shelf plates reduces the risk of chemicals contaminating the food. Shelf plates are removed, transported to a designated warewashing area and sanitized away from food.
- Bottom solid shelf plates and traverses can be easily removed to thoroughly sweep and mop hard-to-reach areas without having to move the entire shelving unit or pay extra for mobile shelving units.
- Shelf plates are easy to remove and sanitize by simply running them through the dishwasher. No labor intensive manual scrubbing required.