OPINION: Restaurants face battle with bacteria as touchscreen and kiosk usage increases

McDonald’s order kiosks

Touchscreens and kiosks present foodservice operators with challenges around hygiene and disinfection, writes Donna Mitchell at Diversey UK & Ireland…

Self-service touchscreens and kiosks are increasingly popular in retail and hospitality. In these settings they are going to be touched by a lot of different people in quick succession and that present a headache when it comes to preventing the spread of infections.

Using the right disinfectants for the screen and encouraging users to disinfect their hands are key to reducing the risk.

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Many infections can spread when someone touches a contaminated surface and then their mouth, eyes, or nose thereby allowing a virus or another pathogen that causes illness to enter their bodies.

Surfaces can be contaminated when they are touched by someone who is ill or when that person coughs or sneezes and the tiny water droplets produced fall onto that surface. This is known as the ‘chain of infection’, and hand and surface disinfection are both critical to breaking it.

Operators should ideally provide hand disinfectant next to the touchscreen and encourage everyone to use it before and after they touch the screen.

Portable pump-top bottles are simple and convenient but in the long run a professional dispenser mounted next to the touchscreen can offer numerous benefits.

They will not go missing because they are fixed in position and often incorporate features that help prevent them running out of product. Both these attributes help ensure people can always disinfect their hands.

Professional dispensers are generally better at delivering a correct and consistent amount of product. This reduces wastage, and hence costs, and helps ensure good results. They also look more professional and can usually be decorated with useful messages and branding.

The choice of product is important. Formulations containing a minimum of 70% alcohol are recommended for hand disinfection and will be effective against a wide range of pathogens.

Alternative formulations containing different active ingredients are also available. Look for products that pass standard EN tests that demonstrate their effectiveness.

These include EN14776 for viruses such as the one that causes Covid-19, EN1276 for bacteria, and EN1650 for fungi and yeasts. Products that pass multiple tests will offer broad protection.

The second aspect to touchscreen disinfection is the screen itself. This should be disinfected regularly throughout the day and there is a case to be made for cleaning it after every single use.

That might not be practical which is why people should disinfect their hands before and after touching the screen.

Products can be sprayed directly onto the screen and left for a predetermined time to dry or before being wiped off with a suitable clean cloth or tissue.

The period required varies from product to product and is known as the contact time. Products with short contact times work faster which is clearly desirable in busy retail and hospitality settings.

As with hand disinfectants, products containing a minimum 70% alcohol will be effective and can be used on many touchscreens.

Some suppliers even offer the same alcohol-based product for hand and surface disinfection. These products can be used with dispensers for hand hygiene or sprayed or wiped onto surfaces.

Using a single product is simpler when using the products as well as reducing purchasing and supply chain burdens because just one product is needed instead of two.

Alternative surface disinfectants with different active ingredients can also be suitable. Products containing AHP or Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide, for example, are effective against a wide range of pathogens and are suitable for many different surfaces including glass and most plastics that are likely to be found on screens.

They also have shorter contact times – fully virucidal in 30 seconds, for example – than many traditional products.

Many surface disinfectants are supplied as liquids. Some are available in ready-to-use spray bottles. Others are supplied as concentrates and must be diluted with water before they can be used.

Used with the correct dosing equipment and reusable spray bottles these products can be cheaper in the long run and offer additional sustainability benefits such as reduced wastage and packaging.

The same disinfectants are often available as disposable wipes. These are just as effective, convenient, and simple to use and they can be an ideal option in many situations. Wipes with alcohol or AHP as the active ingredient can normally be used without wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) unlike many traditional disinfectants.

As well as the screen, it is important to disinfect other parts of the device that are likely to be touched. This might include, for example, keypads or barcode scanners attached to payment terminals or buttons used to call for assistance.

Look for products that have been tested to meet the same or similar standards – EN14776, EN1276, EN1500, EN1650 etc – as for the hand products mentioned above.

Whatever type of product is used, conventional surface disinfectants all work by removing or destroying pathogens. Any surface could be contaminated again right away. A new type of product removes this limitation by offering ongoing protection and is especially useful for frequent-touch surfaces.

These products initially disinfect like a conventional formulation but dry to form an almost invisible polymer layer. This retains the disinfectant which can then destroy pathogens that are deposited on the surface, offering ongoing protection for up to 24 hours.

Efficacy is demonstrated by the BSI PAS 2424 Residual Antimicrobial Efficacy or the even more stringent EPA RSS tests.

Products that pass these tests in ‘dirty conditions’ can be used as a cleaner-disinfectant and there is no need – unlike many alternatives – to clean the surface before it is applied.

Protecting customers and staff through a combination of hand hygiene and kiosk/touchscreen disinfection need not be difficult.

Cleaning suppliers will be able to advise on the products from their ranges that offer the most practical and effective solution for a customer’s specific requirements.

They will also be able to provide evidence to back up their claims for the effectiveness, cost-in-use, and sustainability benefits of their products to help customers make their decision.

Donna Mitchell is sector marketing manager for hospitality at Diversey UK & Ireland, a manufacturer and supplier of cleaning and hygiene solutions.

Tags : opinion
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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