Refrigeration in the grocery retail sector has been put to the test by Covid-19. In the early months of the pandemic, people invaded supermarkets and other grocery shops, continually opening and closing the refrigerators, display cabinets and other food storage units.
In addition to the health and safety restrictions designed to prevent the spread of the virus, grocery store owners have also had to devote their attention to the above-mentioned issue. The coronavirus has therefore indirectly contributed to increasing awareness about the importance of the proper maintenance of refrigeration equipment.
The impact of Covid-19 on the grocery retail sector
Many refrigeration system suppliers to the grocery sector have recorded an increase in maintenance requests by their clients, especially regarding the cleaning and disinfection of the equipment.
The number of calls during the critical months of the epidemic reached an overwhelming level and still remains high. In order to tackle this problem, producers have provided some useful tips, designed to improve safety and guarantee the correct functioning of the equipment:
- Monthly deep cleaning of refrigeration systems;
- Install disinfectant gel dispensers and disinfectant wipes (with an alcohol content of at least 70%), so that people can clean handles and other surfaces adequately before every contact;
- Take special care that an even distribution of products is maintained inside the units, so as to avoid blocking the flow of air.
The last point in particular is one of the most common causes of system breakdowns. The random accumulation of products can cause irreparable damage: blocked air flow risks compromising food storage and can lead to overheating and excessive energy consumption.
As well as making grocery retail operators pay more attention to the maintenance of refrigeration equipment, the coronavirus has obliged them to adopt regulations and precautions to guarantee clients’ complete safety.
Over time various trends have emerged, such as the more frequent substitution of HVAC filters, a more attentive cleaning of tills, the installation of protective screens and the adoption of measures to ensure social distancing.
Procedure for cleaning refrigeration units
Among the numerous guidelines provided by suppliers of refrigeration systems to the grocery retail sector, is the procedure for the proper cleaning of units destined for food storage. This includes six points which must be followed scrupulously in order to avoid damage or other unpleasant consequences:
- Ensure the unit is disconnected from the power supply. It is important to note that some models can still operate the fan motors even when turned off;
- Remove all products and clean inside areas thoroughly in order to eliminate any leaks;
- Wait until the ice has completely melted (especially in freezers without an automatic de-frost feature). Avoid scraping the ice from inside the unit as this could damage it or even puncture the walls, compromising the equipment;
- Leave the doors open to let the inside of the unit dry. Some areas could be difficult to reach, so it is important to ensure an adequate air supply so that most of the humidity evaporates (thereby avoiding the formation of mould or bad smells);
- Clean all the surfaces with an appropriate good quality detergent;
- When the equipment is switched back on, let the unit cool to the ideal operating temperature before loading it with products.
In addition to a correct maintenance of the refrigeration units, it is important to check regularly that the internal temperature remains constant. Even a small variation can lead to the malfunctioning of the entire system and the consequent spoiling of any food stored inside.
Translated by Joanne Beckwith