Sanitizer Test Strips

A very important part of a food facility's daily operation is proper sanitizing of equipment. Generally, chlorine or quaternary ammonia is used to kill pathogens on multi-use utensils, food-contact surfaces, wiping cloths, and other items that are used to prepare food. Sanitizing agents only work if used appropriately - for this reason, food facilities are required to have test strips to check the sanitizer. Test strips should be used in three bay sinks, low-temperature dishwashers, and buckets used to hold wiping cloths. The type of test strip needed depends on the type of sanitizer used:
  • Chlorine Test Strips are used for bleach. They are also used to check chlorine levels used in low-temperature dishwashers. Look for strips that read between 0-200 ppm free available chlorine. Make sure that the test kit is for sanitizing agents, not for swimming pools or drinking water.
  • QT-10 Test Strips are used for quaternary ammonia such as the blue tablets often used in a bar's three-bay sink. They are also used for liquid quaternary ammonia that has only one "quat" listed in the ingredients.
  • QT-40 Test Strips are used for sanitizers that are multi-quat. These sanitizers generally have four chemicals listed in the ingredients.
Test strips are required by the Chester County Health Department Food Code Regulations. It may seem excessive to check sanitizer daily if the amount of sanitizer per water is known to produce a specific concentration; but this practice is important for several reasons:
  • Chemicals can deteriorate, especially if a large quantity of sanitizer is kept on-site. Sanitizers can also deteriorate if kept in a warm or hot environment. If the chemicals deteriorate, the sanitizer will not have the same strength as when it was originally purchased.
  • Containers used to store wet wiping cloths must contain the proper amount of sanitizer. Food particles that make their way from the cloth into the sanitizer will eat up the active ingredient. Because of this, the containers need to be changed several times each day. 50-100 ppm of chlorine or 200 ppm of quaternary ammonia must be maintained.
  • Dishwashers that use sanitizer (generally chlorine) can appear to be working, but if they are not delivering any free chlorine, then they are not sanitizing the equipment. A dishwasher that worked yesterday may have lost its prime due to air in the hose or other mechanical failure. For example, if the sanitizer container is changed, the unit must be primed, run a few times, and the sanitizer checked to ensure it is still active and being delivered to the equipment surface. Dishwashers must be checked at least once a day and also each time the sanitizer agent is refilled or changed.
Your sanitizing agent is an important line of defense against food-borne illness. Using test strips correctly helps protect patrons from getting ill, and in turn, protects the food facility's reputation.