Originally Posted by Chris Bruce
Health inspector should have no issue with it since it is not a work surface it is only a transportation device for tools from and individual. This is not a working surface and knives should be wiped down anyway before,during and after use.
I beg to differ.
Pots, pans, and baking sheets are "sanitized" every time they exceed 85 C--which is pretty much every time they are heated up.
Bowls, whisks, spatulas, steam table inserts, etc are "sanitized" in the d/washer either by 85 C+ final rinse or sanitizing solution.
While a s/s prep table is a "working surface" food may or may not contact it, but food is guaranteed to contact cutting boards and knives. And knives should only be sanitized manually with sanitizer. Point I want to make here is that any knife will make contact with food--several times-- as food is processed. The knife (as well as meat grinders, food processors, mixing bowls, and cutting boards) are an ideal vehicle for cross contamination. I value your point that knives should be sanitized before even coming into contact with food.
Now, below you will find my personal experiences with knives and health inspectors. You may interpret my experiences as you wish, but at least I hope you fill some entertainment value in them.
-I spent most of the '80's working in Switzerland as cook's apprentice, then as cook. I had opportunity to see health inspectors "in action" during this time. These guys have the right to take any sample of any food item, or surface swab of any item that comes in contact with food. The deal was (back then, anyway) that you were allowed a minimum of X bacteria count for associated food items. If you exceeded the max count, you were fined and also had to pay for the lab tests. If the count was abnormally high, you got a phone call right away to throw out that food item, and the boys would be around to see that you did--and fine you or shut you down. One of the cooks at one place had a leather knife case--black pebble finish zippered affair. Ye olde health inspector gave it the hairy eyeball, then whipped out a swab, took a sample from one of the knife pockets, and innoculated one of his petri dishes with it. About a week later Chef gets a letter telling him the inspection was satisfactory, but the knife case swab had a borderline staph count on it. Now, the case was constructed so that the handle slid into the pocket, and the blade was exposed. You can sanitize the blade all you want, but if your hand is in contact with the handle-which came in contact with compromised surfaces--, and you use your hand to contact food--well, you get the idea. Chef asks the cook to put the case away and not bring it into work anymore.
-Military service is compulsary in Switzerland, and in the spring of '85 I found myself with a team of other cooks cooking for a company of 500 men and officers--with the mandatory 9mm S.I.G. pistol swinging from my hip. Swiss Army felt that food borne illnesses were 100% preventable, and if such an outbreak did occur, heads would roll from the C.O. of the company all the way down to the lowest cook. We had kitchen inspections every 2 weeks.... Inspecting officers would do all the usual inspections, but they did pay attention to knives. They carried a mechanic's feeler guage with them, and if they could insert a certain thickness between the scales of the knife and the blade, then that knife was ordered destroyed and a new one issued. Swiss army, allright? Obviously Victorinox blades, and back then they hadn't introduced the injection-molded plastic handles. The knives were sanitized per procedure, but were never allowed to be stored in wood drawers or stored in any device that couldn't be sanitized.
-By the 90's I found myself in a small boutique hotel in Singapore. One day--I'll never forget it--two health inspectors walk in and tour the place. Couldn't find much, but one of them-- the small guy, who I'll call "Gift-zwerg", notices some knives stored between the edges of two s/s prep tables. They're talking about this between themselves in Hokkien dialect--which my wife's family speaks and I understand a little of. Big guy was saying something like "give him a verbal warning, we got two other places to do this morning". Ol' Gift-zwerg is looking at me and realizes I understand the conversation. How dare I, a hairy-ape Kwai-lo be in his country AND understand his dialect? He gets red and angry and starts lecturing me on cross contamination in Singlish.
What do you do? I was young and naive and stupid, and I started lecturing back:
"Gentlemen, not 100 yards from here is the Paya Lebar wet market. In there you will find fresh pork for sale that is not refrigerated*, not covered or protected, and displayed in a non-airconditioned market. The Halal stall has frozen sides of mutton hanging from the ceiling--right under naked 100 watt light bulbs. The fish monger is gutting fish with one hand, receiving and dispensing money from a dirty apron pocket with the other, when he isn't sucking on a cigarette or scratching the scab under his rubber boot. The adjoining hawker center stalls are washing their melamine bowls and chopsticks by squatting over plastic laundry tubs with cold greasy water--the same tubs they used two hours earlier to soak frozen raw chicken meat in so it can thaw quicker. It's the same at every wet market and hawker center across S'pore. And you want to lecture me on cross contamination?
Well, didn't the fecal matter get introduced to the impellor---and at an alarming velocity too!
Meh. I was young and stupid, and I paid dearly for my "lecture". But ever since then I've made it a point to always store my knives on a s/s magnet strip or in a plastic fishing tackle box that I can easily toss in the d/washer.
-By the late 90's I was back in Canada and got a few p/t shifts at a senior's home for kicks and extra cash. The home was managed by one of those mega-catering companies--the ones who have their tongue firmly placed inside Sysco's nether regions. But they took sanitation very seriously, and indeed they had to, most of their clientele had weakened or compromised immune systems. Among other things, knives were rented, sanitized after every use, AND run through the d/washer multiple times a day, and replaced every 4 weeks. Knives were always stored in drawers that were plastic steam-table sized inserts. No personal knives were allowed--ever. A lot of these places and many chains follow these rules regarding knives.
So take my experiences with a grain of salt, and hope you get a chuckle from them.
* Singapore finally made it mandatory to sell only refrigerated fresh pork by early 2000.