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The Evolution of the Commercial Kitchen: Applying Sanitation Standards to Modern, High-Tech Equipment

Photo: Courtesy of Charles Deluvio

Audra Bildeaux

Senior Manager of Food Equipment, NSF International

Anyone who has entered a food establishment recently or who works in one cannot help but notice the changes occurring in how food is ordered, prepped, and delivered. Commercial kitchens are more sophisticated and automated than ever before, and all signs point to this trend continuing.  

From touch-screen ordering to robotic delivery, the way we dine out is becoming high tech. So how can we ensure that this highly technical machinery is sanitary and safe for use in a food-contact environment?

The rise of fast food

Over 60 years ago the food industry faced the same rapid innovation we are seeing today. The rising consumer demand for quick, affordable, and consistent food options lead to the golden age of fast food restaurants and processed foods, bringing new challenges to human health.  

To address this budding industry, NSF International and other scientific and regulatory groups responded with advances in food hygiene policy and science. In 1952, the Council of Public Health Consultants was established including representatives from government, regulatory, academia, public health and public service. 

From this council, NSF Standards 1 and 2 were born, establishing hygiene and safety requirements for soda fountains, luncheonette equipment, and food service equipment. In a period of seven years following NSF Standards 1 and 2, standards for commercial dishwashing equipment, commercial cooking, rethermalization, transport equipment, hot water heaters, and dispensing freezers were created. 

Similarities today 

Today, NSF standards are developed and maintained by joint committees of stakeholders representing public health regulators and government officials, academia, manufacturers, and consumers or user groups. These groups are tasked with reviewing the current standards at prescribed intervals, as well as ensuring that the requirements set forth in these documents are timely and represent the shifting industry. 

By following the trends in food equipment and adapting the standards to reflect innovation, manufacturers can confirm that their equipment is capable of sanitary design as outlined in one of NSF’s standards.  

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