Cross-contamination is the main reason for many food-borne illness outbreaks. Even if meat has been cooked correctly, meals can still become contaminated with pathogens if cross-contamination isn’t avoided in the preparation process.
Put simply, if raw foods come into contact with ready-to-eat foods, cross-contamination can occur. While this may seem difficult to stop, avoiding cross-contamination is quite simple if you follow these steps.
From Checkout to Counter
It is easy for cross-contamination to occur even at the grocery store. If raw meat and fresh produce are not placed in separate bags when processed at the check out, bacteria from the meat can contaminate the produce. Bacteria can come from the juices of the raw meat, or from contact with the product’s packaging, even though visible juices may not be present.
Cross-contamination can also occur when products are simply sitting in the shopping trolley. It is important to remember to:
- Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy from other foods in your trolley.
- At the checkout, place raw meat, poultry and seafood in separate plastic bags to keep their juices away from other foods.
Store Food in the Right Place
Where you store food plays a major role in preventing cross-contamination. When placing foods in the refrigerator, where and how foods are stored is incredibly important.
- Raw meats should always be stored on the bottom shelf. This eliminates the risk of juices dripping onto other foods and contaminating them.
- Raw meat, poultry and seafood should be stored in covered containers or sealed plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping or leaking onto other foods.
- If you’re not planning on using meat within a few days of purchase, it should be placed in the freezer for defrosting at a later date.
- Meats and ready-to-eat foods should never be placed next to each other or on the same shelves.
Chopping boards can be an easy place for cross-contamination to occur. Placing ready-to-eat foods such as fresh produce on a surface that held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs can spread harmful bacteria. Avoiding cross-contamination across cutting surfaces is avoidable.
- Plastic or glass surfaces should be used for cutting raw meats.
- Use one chopping board for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
- Use a separate chopping board for ready-to-eat foods.
- Use separate plates and utensils for cooked and raw foods.
- Before reusing them, thoroughly clean and sanitise plates, utensils and cutting boards that have come into contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.
- Chopping boards should be replaced if they are excessively scratched or damaged. Damaged chopping boards develop grooves that are hard to clean, making bacteria difficult to eliminate.
Washing Hands and Counters
While you are cooking, you need to ensure that you wash your hands properly. This should include after you handle any raw meats and after cooking. Additionally, all counters and surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitised after raw meats have been anywhere near them.
Cross-contamination can be easily avoided if the right precautions are taken. To eliminate the spread of harmful bacteria in your kitchen, proper cleaning and sanitising practices are required. Visit our Resource Centre to learn more about cleaning, sanitising and keeping your kitchen food safe.
Food Safety Training
The best way to prevent cross-contamination, and the serious consequences it can cause, is to train your employees. Everyone who handles food in your business should have at least a basic knowledge of food-borne illness and food allergens, including:
- food-borne bacteria and what they need to thrive
- how food can become contaminated
- signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction
- the importance of good personal hygiene
- the importance of following food safety protocols and best practices
- the risks and consequences of cutting corners when it comes to food safety
Want more information about food safety training? Contact AIFS — we're here to help.