Cleaning and sanitation program


What are cleaning and sanitizing?

Cleaning is defined as the removal of dirt or debris by physical and/or chemical means.

Sanitize is defined as the reduction of microorganisms to levels considered safe from a public health viewpoint. Sanitizing takes place after the cleaning step because it is most effective on a minimally soiled surface.

An effective cleaning and sanitation program prevents contamination of a food from the hazards that can be present on equipment, food contact surfaces, and in the general premises by:

  • reducing biological hazards such as pathogenic microorganisms
  • removing physical hazards like glass, plastic or metal
  • removing chemical hazards such as allergens and chemicals used for sanitizing and maintenance of the equipment

Taking steps to reduce the presence of microorganisms also prevents contamination of a food with spoilage microorganisms. This can result in a food of higher quality and a longer shelf life.

Premises and equipment that present less risk of contamination to a food, such as those used for packaged food, may not need to be sanitized. However, clean conditions are still needed:

  • premises such as loading docks, conveyances, boiler rooms and maintenance rooms
  • equipment such as fork lifts, hand pallet jacks and conveyances


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) created this document as guidance to help food businesses comply with the requirements set out in the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.

It's your choice

You may use other guidance developed by provincial governments, industry associations, international partners or academic bodies as long as they can achieve the outcomes identified in the regulations. Always ensure that the guidance you choose is relevant for your particular business, product or products, and market requirements.

What is included

The document outlines what you should consider and include in your written cleaning and sanitation program

Refer to the Tell me more! section for additional sources of information that may help you develop your cleaning and sanitation program.

What is not included

While the document provides examples of how to develop a cleaning and sanitation program, it is not exhaustive – the cleaning and sanitizing activities required will be unique for each business. The methods of cleaning and sanitation will depend on the size and complexity of the food business.

Roles and responsibilities

Food businesses are responsible for complying with the law. They demonstrate compliance by ensuring that the commodities and processes for which they are responsible meet regulatory requirements. If a written Preventive Control Plan (PCP) is required, the food business develops a PCP with supporting documents, monitors and maintains evidence of its implementation, and verifies that all control measures are effective.

The CFIA verifies the compliance of a food business by conducting activities that include inspection, and surveillance. When non-compliance is identified, the CFIA takes appropriate compliance and enforcement actions.

Cleaning and sanitation program

There are three steps used in the development of a Cleaning and Sanitation Program:

  1. Gather key information
    • this includes: who, where, what, when and how to clean and sanitize. Because this information will form the basis of the Cleaning and Sanitation Program, the more detailed the information, the more effective the program will be
  2. Develop templates for records
    • when completed these records provide evidence that the cleaning and sanitizing activities were completed and are effective
  3. Implement the program

Step 1. Gather key information needed to develop the Cleaning and sanitation program

Think about…

  • What method of cleaning and sanitizing is required? For example:
    • for clean-in-place (CIP), equipment is cleaned by an accepted in-line CIP system
    • for clean-out-of-place (COP), equipment is disassembled for hand cleaning
    • dry-cleaning, where no water or liquids are used, procedures involve activities such as vacuuming
  • Are special equipment or utensils needed to clean and sanitize? If so, how are they to be used?
  • Will gloves, safety goggles, aprons or other personal protective equipment be worn? Are there other protective measures to be taken in to prevent food or food contact surface contamination?
  • What are the procedures for taking equipment apart for cleaning and sanitizing as well as re-assembling it after cleaning and sanitizing? Identify any parts that will require special attention
  • What measures will be taken to protect food or packaging materials from contamination during cleaning and sanitizing activities? Is cleaning done during or post processing?
  • What types of materials (for example, fat, protein, sugar stone, mineral deposits) will have to be removed from equipment surfaces during cleaning and sanitizing activities?

Now write it down…

Your written program should describe:


  • Identify all persons or positions that will be responsible for cleaning and sanitizing activities


  • Identify each room or area required to be cleaned and sanitized


  • For the rooms or areas to be cleaned and sanitized, specify:
    • The type and concentration of cleaning compounds and sanitizers and cleaning tools used
    • All equipment, including utensils, structures and surfaces such as food contact surfaces, walls, floors, drains, ceilings and overhead assemblies to be cleaned and sanitized


  • Choose the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing based on the risk of contamination of the food, area, room, type of equipment, food contact surfaces and structures. For instance, will cleaning and sanitizing be done daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or at another frequency?
  • If cleaning and sanitation is taking place during production, specify at what point during production and what precautions are in place to prevent contamination of the food


  • Provide step-by-step details on how the cleaning and sanitizing is to be performed
  • Identify procedures to be followed to make sure the activities are conducted in a manner so that food or food contact surfaces are not contaminated
  • Identify any general housekeeping, such as sweeping and tidying up that will help in maintaining the establishment, facilities, equipment and conveyances in a clean and sanitary condition

Include any special instructions required in the cleaning and sanitation process, for example:

  • set up instructions for CIP systems, for example, moving piping lines or opening and closing certain valves
  • pre-rinse instructions
  • cleaning and sanitizing chemicals to be used and their rotation
  • chemical mixing and handling instructions
  • appropriate chemical concentrations as per product labels
  • temperature of water or cleaning solutions
  • solution pressures
  • surface contact time
  • scrubbing, rinsing and drying instructions
  • final flush and rinse requirements
  • disassembly of equipment and special reassembly instructions, for example, moving piping lines or opening and closing certain valves

Quick tip

CFIA recommends seeking expert advice from a chemical supply representative should you have any questions on cleaning and sanitizing chemicals relating to your operation, and their proper use.

Evidence of effectiveness

Next obtain evidence that the cleaning and sanitizing procedures conducted are effective.

Step 2 Develop templates for records

Cleaning and sanitizing activities should be recorded on a standardized form that indicates:

  • who is responsible for the cleaning and sanitizing
  • cleaning and sanitizing activities which have to be completed
  • chemicals used, solution temperatures, chemical concentrations
  • date and time
  • verification that activities have been satisfactorily completed

Step 3 Implement the cleaning and sanitation program


Training people on handling and using chemicals, as well as cleaning and sanitizing procedures, reduces health and safety risks, decreases the likelihood of food contamination and helps ensure that cleaning and sanitation procedures are properly followed.

Once the Cleaning and Sanitation Program has been determined to be effective and the people who will be doing the cleaning and sanitizing have been trained to perform their assigned duties, you are now ready to put your program in action!

During the early stages of implementation spend time to make sure things are going as planned. If not, be prepared to make changes to your Cleaning and Sanitation Program.

Quick tip

Although employees should be familiar with the procedures for cleaning and sanitizing, it is useful to post, in each location, the Cleaning and Sanitation Program requirements specific to that area.

Tell me more! Further reading

The following references contain information that helps explain food safety controls, demonstrates how to develop them, and provides examples. The CFIA is not responsible for the content of documents that are created by other government agencies or international sources.

CFIA references

Other references