Cross-contamination is when harmful bacteria are transferred to food. This can lead to serious health risks such as food poisoning and unintentional exposure to allergens. You can save time and money by ensuring that your kitchen staff knows how to avoid cross-contamination.
You can create an environment in your kitchen that adheres to the guidelines for food safety by taking care to separate foods when storing or preparing them.
What is cross-contamination?
Cross-contamination occurs when disease-causing microorganisms, like bacteria and viruses, are transferred from one food to another. As a result, cross-contamination is one of the leading causes of foodborne illnesses. Unwashed cutting boards, hands, or kitchen tools like knives and tongs most frequently cause cross-contact.
While cooking at temperatures that are safe for food will kill harmful bacteria, the majority of food contamination occurs when bacteria from raw food interact with foods that don’t have to be cooked.
Foodborne Illness: How to Prevent It
It is important to be aware of the potential for contamination at each stage of food preparation. You can contaminate your food at any stage of the process, including before, during, and after serving. Implementing a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) program will help you identify and control contamination risk.
Teaching your staff to prevent cross-contamination can keep your food safe from the moment your food arrives in your kitchen until it reaches your guests’ table. You can ensure a safe, sanitary kitchen by requiring that all kitchen staff obtain certifications for food handling and food handler’s licenses.
How to prevent cross-contamination through food storage
By using the right food storage methods, you can prevent contaminating your food before it’s prepared. It is crucial to store food properly in the fridge in order to avoid cross-contamination. Many different types of foods are held together in one location. If food items are not properly protected or organized, contamination can spread easily from one to the other. Follow these guidelines to store food when organizing your kitchen safely:
- To prevent contamination, store raw meats and milk in sturdy containers that are well-sealed.
- According to ServSafe, food should be stored in the order of the internal cooking temperature for each product, starting at the top: food that is ready to eat, seafood, beef, pork, and whole cuts, as well as ground meat, fish, and poultry.
- Store your raw meats, dairy products, and fruits and vegetables in separate refrigerators if you have the space.
Preventing Cross-Contamination During Food Preparation
- Cross-contamination can still occur even if the food is stored correctly. To avoid cross-contamination, use the following food preparation techniques:
- Clean your surfaces before preparing food on them, and be sure to sanitize them between uses. Failing to clean a work surface after preparing raw meat will contaminate any food items or equipment that you place on it afterward.
- For added safety, use color-coded cutting boards to differentiate between supplies that are used for raw meat, fish, poultry, fruits, and vegetables.
- Try using color-coded chef knives to designate your utensils for the same reason easily. Following HACCP guidelines for color-coded knives, green blades should be used with fresh produce, white utensils for dairy, yellow with raw poultry, red with raw meat, blue for raw fish, and brown knives are meant to be used with cooked meat.
- To prevent contamination, equipment should be kept separate from food storage areas once it has been cleaned and sanitized.
Practice Proper Personal Hygiene
- Some contaminants can linger on the hands and clothing of your employees. You can prevent cross-contamination by avoiding poor hygiene.
- To protect your food from contamination, require that all kitchen staff wear headwear and aprons.
- For the best protection against contamination, employees should wear disposable gloves. They should also be changed every time they handle a new material or food.
- Wash hands often and thoroughly when working with raw meat, poultry, or fish.
Handling Food Safely
- The job of preventing contamination does not end when the food reaches your customers’ table. Cross-contamination is possible if plates, glasses, and utensils are handled improperly while tables are being set up or cleared. Consider the following guidelines to prevent food contamination while serving your guests.
- Avoid using the same serving utensils for different foods when plating cooked food. Use one for the main course, such as meat, poultry, and fish, and a second for side dishes, like vegetables and starches.
- Use a scoop or tongs instead of your hands when putting ice in a glass.
- Hold utensils only by their handles, not the parts that will be in contact with food.
- In the same way, ask your servers to handle the dishes of your guests by the base only and not touch any part of the plate that may contain the food.
Cross-Contamination Prevention Products
- Consider these products to make your sanitary practices easier.
- The use of probe wipes is essential to sterilize thermometers.
- Disposable food thermometers can help eliminate cross-contamination because they only need to be used once.
- You can clearly label your food storage areas with the day of the week or product labels. This will help your employees to know what they are storing and when it’s safe to consume.
- Color-coded probe thermometers can help prevent cross-contamination and ensure that food is cooked at safe temperatures.
- It is essential to maintain sanitary practices throughout the entire food preparation process in order to prevent cross-contamination. The food can become contaminated during storage and even during the serving process. To keep your food safe, you and your staff must be familiar with the techniques and products that prevent cross-contamination. This article can be used as a starting point for establishing practices that will ensure a hygienic and safe kitchen.