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December 17, 2014

Getting It “Mostly Right” Can Be Deadly to Your Foodservice Operation

by Dawn Huston, CFSP®

Think you’re sanitizing? Think again.

Despite faithful compliance with cleaning and sanitization protocols, your restaurant still may be exposing customers to bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of the 48 million cases of food-borne illnesses in the United States each year are linked to restaurant and food establishments. In addition, costs associated with foodborne illnesses range from $12-$25 billion annually and an outbreak could run into millions of dollars for a single foodservice operation.

Incidents of foodborne illness outbreaks have become perennial topics for news media, obscuring that fact that the food industry has made great progress in understanding sources of contamination, and in developing procedures and tools for preventing cross-contamination.

One culprit contributing to the outbreaks could be the type of towels restaurants use in the foodservice industry’s standard two-step process for cleaning surface areas — wiping once to pick up dirt and particles and a second time to apply sanitizer.

Scientific testing has proven that cotton and paper towels diminish the germ-fighting power of standard quat- and chlorine-based sanitizers. A recent USDA study discovered an electrostatic attraction that takes place between quaternary ammonia and chlorine sanitizers and the organic fibers in towels. The reaction causes the towel’s fibers to lock in on average 40 percent of the sanitizer before reaching the surface. Once depleted, the solution does little to stop bacteria from growing and multiplying.

To work around this problem, some manufacturers suggest using sanitizer in higher concentrations. While this method can release more sanitizer from a towel, buying larger quantities of sanitizer means a larger expense. Another option is to treat cotton towels with surfactants, compounds that aid sanitizer in separating from the towel’s fibers. This can also can be costly, as well as time-consuming, because the surfactants must be reapplied to the towels every time they are laundered. Both of these suggested approaches also involve training staff to take steps beyond following a manufacturers recommended balance for a sanitizing solution, and opens the window for errors.

An innovative solution now on the market is Chicopee’s Chix®SC Sanitizer Compatible Towels. Made with a proprietary blend of nonwoven synthetic fibers, ChixSC towels release sanitizer at full-potency. Because ChixSC towels are compatible with both quat- and chlorine-based sanitizers, they simplify the sanitizing process and make training staff easier. Available in white, blue, yellow and red, CHIXSC sanitizer compatible foodservice towels also support color-coded zone cleaning protocols.

Repeated testing shows that ChixSC towels sanitize more effectively than the leading cotton and paper brands. They outperformed other towels by 200 percent when measuring the strength of sanitizer they absorb and release onto food prep surfaces.

The destructive consequences of foodborne illnesses can be preventable — lives can be saved, fortunes can be safeguarded, and business can remain solvent — but only by being diligently committed to effective cleaning and sanitizing. There is no room for error when it comes to food safety and protecting your customer’s health. ChixSC foodservice towels are an effective and affordable way to protect the health of your customers.


Visit to view a demonstration of the sanitizer depletion/compatibility phenomenon. Visitors to the site can also order free test kits at and make a direct comparison between the performance of their current towel and CHIX SC.


About the author:

Dawn Huston is a Certified Foodservice Professional and ServSafe® certified. She is the Director of Product Marketing- Wipes, Americas, PGI-Chicopee


ABOUT Chicopee

Chicopee-Americas, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a subsidiary of PGI, a worldwide leader in the manufacture of nonwoven cleaning fabrics and packaged wipes for healthcare, hygiene and industry. Chicopee’s North America division provides roll goods and finished, packaged wipes for foodservice, building maintenance, healthcare, general purpose and consumer retail applications. The European division provides finished, packaged wipes and roll goods engineered for automotive aftermarket, food service, building maintenance, industrial, healthcare, consumer home care and consumer personal care applications.

® Chicopee is a registered trademark of Chicopee, Inc., and Chix is a registered trademark of PGI Polymer, Inc.