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Reducing Cross-Contamination During Food Preparation

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Cross Contamination - Seeing it Clearly

Cross Contamination - Seeing it Clearly

What Is Cross-Contamination?

What is cross-contamination and when does it occur? Cross-contamination occurs when two or more different surfaces come in contact with each other providing the opportunity for various microbes to be deposited on each surface. Microbes can include bacteria, fungus, molds, and viruses. Some of these microbes, when ingested with raw or undercooked food, can cause illness in the person who consumes the product.

Cross-contamination between foods can easily be limited by being proactive during food preparation. The most basic element to reduce germs from spreading is to wash our hands with warm soapy water as often as possible. When handling food, this should be done frequently and, especially, after handling raw meat, poultry, and fish.

All food preparation surfaces should be washed after each use, including cutting boards, knives, small appliances, and utensils. A kitchen should be stocked with a minimum of 2 cutting boards. One of these boards is used strictly for fruits and vegetables while the other is reserved for raw meats, poultry, and fish. These boards should not be identical so that they can be differentiated for their purpose. There are many cutting boards that come in different colours, materials, and sizes. Choose one that will suit the purpose it is intended for. If you decide to dry the items with a dishcloth, use a clean towel that was not used for wiping the sink, washing the dishes, or the floor. These towels have been contaminated with the microbes from the items that were washed with it. The soiled towels should be laundered with bleach and warm water.

When thawing or storing raw meats, poultry, or fish, the item should be placed in a leak-proof container in the fridge. This will prevent any raw juices from running over and spilling onto fruits and vegetables, and other foods, below. Generally, the lowest shelf in the fridge should be allocated for this purpose, thus minimizing the opportunity for cross-contamination. Keep in mind that when food thaws, there will be additional liquid, so choose a container large enough to contain this liquid.

Thinking and Processing in Logical Order

The order in which food groups are prepared are important. Personally, I prepare the grains and bread first, followed by dairy. Next, the fruits and vegetables. The last being raw meats, poultry and fish. Finish handling one food group before advancing to the next. This particular step really minimizes the potential for cross-contamination.

Fruits and vegetables should always be washed before being eaten or prepared as there can be pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers (chemical or animal manure) or soil adhering to the skin of the produce. In addition to these, there is also bacteria and other microbes that live on the skin of the produce, some of which can cause the consumer to become ill.

Never place raw meat, poultry or fish next to foods that will be consumed raw, such as salads, vegetable sticks, fruit plate or cheese and crackers. A small splash of the raw meat juice onto the salads or fruit can spell disaster for the consumer.

By following these suggestions, cross-contamination can be prevented in your kitchen.

Bon appetit!


Copyright 2009

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Beth100

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Beth100 (author) from Canada on January 11, 2012:

jnr3ikgjh - hmmm... not sure what you wrote initially as the translation is lost somewhere on the keyboard... but thanks.

jnr3ikgjh on December 01, 2011:


Beth100 (author) from Canada on September 01, 2010:

Infonolan -- Terminology that is used for marketing can be misleading. So much of it depends on context and the fine print. I understand about the "gluten free" label. I have come across this myself. One has to be cautious of reading the ingredient labels, learning about the factories where the product is produced (many factories produce several products and cross-contamination can occur) and where it is packaged. Food cross-contamination is a whole new topic. Thanks for bringing this to the forefront.

infonolan on August 31, 2010:

There does seem to be some concern even with regard to a gluten free diet. Unfortunately, being coeliac, I notice many businesses around that 'wave' the gluten free term in our faces without thoroughly examining our laws about claims or taking appropriate precautions. On my Hub Pages account I am taking each of these businesses to task!

Great hub, thanks for sharing!

Beth100 (author) from Canada on August 19, 2010:

Jim -- Excellent suggestions! I completely endorse what you practice. I wash my hands between changes of food prep regardless of what types of food they are. I have taken it one step further where I wash the utensils, colanders, peelers, knives and so forth between each use. Thank you Jim, for the excellent tips!

Jim Bryan from Austin, TX on August 15, 2010:

Great advice (rated Up and Useful), though I find the best frequency of hand-washing during raw food prep is whenever I switch tasks (or if I'm working with a lot of the same item, every 20 minutes or so) to reduce cross-contamination. If I've minced a clove of garlic and am going to slice a lime, I wash my hands. After I cook bacon I wash hands before handling eggs, etc.

Beth100 (author) from Canada on September 04, 2009:

Thanks Ladybird33 -- now we can tag team! :)

Ladybird33 from Fabulous USA on September 04, 2009:

Beth, I did the same, I linked your hub to mine. Cheers.

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