Disinfection Service Companies 'Clean' Utensils with Black, Dirty Water

August 12, 2007 Updated: August 12, 2007

Recently, a news reporter in Guangzhou City went undercover to several service companies that disinfect food utensils for various restaurants. He exposed the truth behind how these food utensils are being “cleaned.”

According to an article published in China Express News on August 9, the reporter worked part-time at many such companies in Guangzhou in order to conduct the undercover investigation. He soon discovered that many of these companies had serious problems with both management and protocol. These unsanitary environments had no sanitary licensure or established standards, the workers had no health certificates, and the “cleaned” utensils did not receive any routine manual inspections. Many sets of food utensils are being “disinfected” and delivered to approximately 600 restaurants in the city. Shipments go out each day.

According to the report, there were approximately 30 such companies that provide disinfecting services, but less than 30 percent of such establishments had a proper license.

In the report, the author applied for a job at Guangzhou's Kangming Company, known as “the largest food utensil disinfection service establishment in Guangdong.” He discovered that the company did not bother to verify if new hires possessed a food-sanitation license. The author was hired (without such a license) and assigned to a position in the “packaging” department.

The supervisor demonstrated how the packaging was done: “Gently knock the bowls a few times and pour the cleaning power out of the bowl, then look to see if there's anything else in the bowl, and wipe it clean with a cloth.” Just as the supervisor finished talking, he took the piece of cloth which was full of black and yellow stains, and wiped residues off the inside of the bowl. The package workers were not wearing work clothing or masks. Very few wore gloves.

In the days that followed, the reporter discovered that none of the companies he applied for asked him to take a comprehensive exam, training course or produce verification of food-sanitation credentials.

According to Ah-wen, who does the actual washing at one of the companies, each worker has a red bucket. Their job is to take utensils out of the blue bucket, and wash them in their red bucket. Although they use detergent, they still keep washing even after the water in the bucket has turned completely black.

As the author was washing the utensils, he noticed that the workers' red buckets never moved. Even after the water had turned completely black, the workers didn't bother changing the water. From 9:30 to 11:00 in the morning, he noticed only one worker put clean water into the bucket.

The article further added that the delivery truck would collect unprocessed dirty utensils at the same time it delivered “disinfected” ones back to the restaurants. So inside the cargo area of the truck there would be both “cleaned” and dirty utensils together. Every time the cargo doors were opened, there would be this horrible stench accompanied by the sight of a coat of yellow grease on the cargo area floor. Sometimes the same truck would even be used to haul garbage after making the delivery. The reporter went on the delivery run once. He witnessed the truck being half full of “disinfected” utensils and half full of large garbage bags.