The process of cross-contamination is exactly what it sounds like: contamination moving from one object or surface to another. Think of contamination as harmful bacteria or viruses transferring around the kitchen, making an invisible but dangerous mess. Anytime food comes into contact with a food hazard, this is called cross-contamination. Consider the three major types of cross-contamination:
1. Food-to-food cross-contamination occurs when contaminated food comes into contact with uncontaminated food and taints it. This can happen in two ways: one food directly touches another or one food touches a surface which then touches another food. Where bacteria are allowed to spread, illness is sure to follow.
You might ask, “How can I avoid spreading contamination from food to food?” Proper food storage and preparation are key. Make sure to store items in the proper shelf order. Also, never store cleaning supplies or chemicals near food. When preparing food, be especially careful to prevent raw meats from contacting foods that will not be cooked. Thoroughly clean and sanitize objects and surfaces as needed.
2. Pathogens can also spread from employees to food, resulting in person-to-food cross-contamination. Biological hazards such as bacteria or viruses can pass from employees’ bodies to the food they handle and serve. Illness in the kitchen can easily lead to illness in your establishment. Don’t put the health of your patrons at risk.
The best way to avoid cross-contamination from person to food is to encourage good hygiene and food handling practices. Review and apply the proper methods for hand washing and glove use. Help your employees understand the correct steps to take when they are ill. It may be necessary for an employee who is ill with a contagious, foodborne illness to be excluded from work activities.
3. Pest-to-food cross-contamination occurs between pests and food. Rodents, insects, and other animals have been known to carry harmful pathogens, making them dangerous companions in the kitchen.
The best way to avoid pest-contamination is to keep pests out of the establishment and away from food. When accepting new deliveries, check for signs of pests in and around the food packages. Keep kitchen and waste-storage areas clean; use heavy-duty garbage cans to prevent attracting pests.
Though it may seem like a juggling act to manage all of these responsibilities at once, remember that food safety is a team effort. When your employees are aware of the dangers of cross-contamination and know how to prevent it in your kitchen, food safety will be in your control.
For additional information and food safety training, direct your employees to our Food Handler Training course.