Cross-contamination occurs when harmful bacteria is transferred to food, which can lead to serious health risks, such as food poisoning or unintentional exposure to food allergens. If your kitchen staff knows how to prevent cross-contamination by properly storing and preparing food, you can save the time and money that would be wasted on mishandled food. By making the effort to separate your food while you store and prepare it, disinfecting your kitchen surfaces and equipment, and practicing proper personal hygiene, you can create a cooking environment that promotes food security.
What will you find in this article?
- What is cross-contamination?
- How to prevent food risen illnesses by avoiding cross-contamination
- How to prevent cross-contamination when food preparation
- How to prevent cross-contamination during food preparation
- How to handle prepared foods to avoid cross-contamination
- Products to prevent cross-contamination
What is cross-contamination?
Cross-contamination occurs when disease-causing microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses, are transferred from one food to another. As a result, cross-contamination is a major cause of food rise illnesses. Cross contact is most often caused by unwashed cutting boards, hands, or kitchen tools such as knives and tweezers. While cooking at safe temperatures kills dangerous bacteria, most food contamination occurs when the bacteria in a raw food interact with foods that do not need to be cooked.
How to prevent food risen illnesses by avoiding cross-contamination
You can prevent better food risen illnesses if you are aware of the risk of contamination at every step of your food preparation process. It is possible to contaminate food before it is prepared, during preparation, and even when it is served to your customer. Implementing a HACCP program, or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points program, will help you identify and control contamination risks.
Teaching all your staff how to prevent cross-contamination can help to keep your food safe from the moment it arrives in your kitchen until it is delivered to your guests’ tables.
By requiring your kitchen staff to obtain food handling certification or food handler permits, you can further ensure that your kitchen is a safe and sanitary environment.
How to prevent cross-contamination when food preparation
You can prevent contamination of food before it is prepared by using proper food preparation techniques. Proper preparation of food in the refrigerator is important to prevent cross-contamination, as many types of food are often stored in one place.
In this environment, contaminants can easily be spread from one food to another if they are not properly protected or organized. When organizing your kitchen, follow these guidelines for preparing food safely:
- Keep raw meats and dairy products in tightly sealed, sturdy containers to store food to avoid contact with other foods.
- ServSafe recommends storing food in the following order; from top to bottom, according to the minimum internal cooking temperature of each product: ready-to-eat foods, seafood, whole cuts of beef and pork, ground meat and crumbled fish, whole and chopped poultry.
- If space and budget permit, store your raw meats and dairy products in refrigeration units separate from your fruits, vegetables and other ready-to-eat products.
How to prevent cross-contamination during food preparation
Even if food has been properly stored, there is still a possibility of cross-contamination once your staff starts preparing meals. Use the following preparation practices to avoid cross-contamination of food:
- Clean your surfaces before preparing food on them, and be sure to disinfect them between uses. If a work surface is not cleaned after preparing raw meat, any food or equipment placed on it afterwards will become contaminated.
- For added safety, use color-coded cutting boards to differentiate between supplies used for raw meat, fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables.
- Try using color-coded chef knives to easily designate your knives for the same reason. Following HACCP guidelines for colored knives, green knives should be used with fresh produce, white knives for dairy products, yellow knives for raw poultry, red knives for raw meat, blue knives for raw fish, and brown knives for cooked meat.
- To avoid contamination, equipment should be kept separate from food storage areas after it has been cleaned and disinfected.
Practice proper personal hygiene
Sometimes contaminants persist on the hands and clothing of your employees. Here are some ways to prevent cross-contamination from improper hygiene habits:
- Require kitchen staff to wear aprons and hats to protect food from external contaminants found on the body or clothing.
- To keep hands free of contamination, have employees wear disposable gloves. Make sure they are changed when an employee begins handling a new food or material.
- Also have employees wash their hands frequently and thoroughly, especially when handling raw meat, fish, or poultry.
How to handle prepared foods to avoid cross-contamination
Contamination prevention isn’t over until food is brought to your customer’s table. That said, cross-contamination can occur if utensils, cups, and plates are handled improperly while tables are set or cleaned. To avoid contamination when serving food to your guests, consider the following tips:
- When serving prepared food, avoid using the same utensils to serve different foods. Have one for meat, fish and poultry, and one for side dishes such as vegetables or starches.
- Never put ice or garnish in a glass with bare hands, but use a spoon or tweezers.
- Always hold utensils by their handles and not by the portions that will come into contact with your customers’ food.
- Have workers handle their guests’ dishes by their base, without touching the portions of the dish where the food can go.
Products to prevent cross-contamination
Now that you know how to avoid cross-contamination in your preparation processes, consider these products that facilitate the practice of health habits.
- Catheter wipes are essential for sterilizing catheter thermometers after each use.
- Because they are used only once, disposable food thermometers help eliminate the risk of cross-contamination.
- Day of the week and product labels allow you to clearly label food in your storage areas. This way, your employees will know what is being stored and when it is safe for consumption.
- Try thermometers with color-coded probes to prevent cross-contamination while making sure your food is cooked to safe temperatures.
To avoid cross-contamination in your kitchen, it is important to practice sanitary habits throughout the food preparation process. Food can become contaminated as soon as it is stored and as late as it is served. Keeping your food safe means familiarizing yourself and your employees with techniques and products to prevent cross-contamination. You can refer to this article as a guide to begin practices that will help you manage a safe and sanitary kitchen.