Guidance for the Safe and Proper Use of Sanitizers and Disinfectants in Food Establishments

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of disinfectants significantly increased in food establishments; however, available guidance for safe and proper use of disinfectants at retail was limited and occasionally conflicting. It was not always clear to food industry and regulatory sectors which products were appropriate for use in order to reduce or inactivate microorganisms of concern.

This ongoing confusion resulted in the submission of late-breaking Issue 2020-III-035 pertaining to the use of disinfectants in retail food establishments and the concern that disinfection is not addressed in the 2017 FDA Food Code (Food Code). As a result of Council III deliberation in August 2021, a "Disinfection of Food-Contact Surfaces Committee" was formed with charges including charge 1) propose disinfection language for the Food Code, and charge 2) develop a guidance document for food establishments on when and how to safely apply disinfectants on food contact surfaces as needed to reduce or eliminate disease-causing microorganisms (e.g., bacteria, fungi, and viruses) during the clean-up of bodily fluid events, foodborne illness outbreaks, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The committee was comprised of representatives from academia, local/state/federal regulatory agencies, and the food industry. Consultants from FDA, EPA and CDC were advising the committee throughout the entire process of guidance document preparation. The committee met weekly for approximately 9 months to fulfill its charges, including the completion of this guidance document.

The committee agreed it was critical to provide guidance on the use of sanitizers and disinfectants, to clarify differences between these categories of products, when and how it is appropriate to use them to control disease-causing pathogens. A review of important regulatory requirements and safeguards, such as EPA registration and product label information, is also provided in this document.

The purpose of this guidance document is to increase knowledge and awareness about the proper use of sanitizers and disinfectants in retail food establishments. When used properly, sanitizers and disinfectants are powerful and complimentary tools that can keep consumers safe from pathogens that cause infectious disease.

Guidance for the Safe and Proper Use of Sanitizers and Disinfectants in Food Establishments
» Download