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Eliminate Cross-Contamination; A Guide to Food Safety at Home

Updated on September 22, 2014

Introduction to food safety.

When I was attending culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu Las Vegas, three weeks of the course was dedicated to sanitation. At first I thought it was going to be a course dedicated to proper cleaning procedures. Not only did I learn the proper use of a three compartment sink, but I learned about proper food handling procedures, food borne illnesses, food storage temperatures, cross contamination and a slew of other food related risk factors. What I have put together in this short article is a guide to food safety and avoiding food borne illnesses.

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Safe food handling procedures

In America we spend billions of dollars a year treating food-borne illnesses. Most of these can be prevented with proper food handling procedures. The two groups most susceptible to food-borne illnesses are children and the elderly. The major reason for this is that children have not built up enough of an immune system and the elderly may have a weakened immune system. Whenever handling food you must first wash your hands, tools, and all work surfaces. All knives must be rewashed after cutting raw meats, failure to do this can result in cross contamination.

Safe Food Temperatures

One of the most important food safety procedures is proper food temperature. Bacteria splits every twenty minutes. After a period of five hours a single bacteria can split 15 times producing 32,384 bacteria, in 7 hours this number will be over a million. By cooking and storing food at proper temperatures this number can be greatly reduced. Leftover food should be stored at 40 degrees, use a thermometer to maintain the temperature.

Prevent Cross Contamination

Another leading cause of food-borne illnesses is cross contamination, By using the same knives and cutting board to cut your meat and vegetables, you run the risk of cross contamination. People simply don't cut their vegetables first. The best thing to do here is to use color coded cutting boards. By using specific colors for meat, poultry, and vegetables, you can prevent cross contaminating your food.



Proper sanitation is key in preventing food-borne illnesses. Anytime you use your hands for anything ( even touching your face ) they need to be washed before cooking. To prevent the spread of bacteria , hands need to be washed with soap and water, the water needs to be as hot as you can stand and you should keep your hands under the water for 20 seconds.

H.A.A.C.P Principles

  • Conduct a hazard analysis; This is the point where you determine what safety hazards are present and eliminate them
  • Identify Critical Control Points; These are points in the processing, transportation, preparation, and storage of food where steps can be taken to prevent hazards.
  • Establish limits for each critical control point;
  • Establish a critical control point management system

First in First out

In the restaurant industry food is stored by date purchased. All the newer products are placed behind the older products. When items are prepared for later use they are labeled with the date. This system should be used at home as well. By keeping track of when food was prepared it is easier to prevent eating expired food.



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    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 3 years ago from North Texas

      Cross contamination is a big problem because so many people don't seem to think it through. They think if they use a clean knife to cut what they believe to be a clean chicken and then use that same knife to slice some clean boiled eggs or other clean meat later, it will be OK because everything the knife touched was clean. Not so. Just because something looks clean doesn't mean it is. Those little trouble makers are not visible without a microscope. Why does anyone think meat or poultry is clean?

      I have known people who set their shoes up on the dinner table to get them out of the way to vacuum, and then without cleaning the table, prepared sandwiches directly on the table in the same place where the dirty street shoes had been!

      I once saw a woman take a dinner knife out of the silverware drawer to dig some hair and crud out of the roller of her vacuum cleaner, then run her hands over the knife when she was finished to get the visible dirt off it, and then put it back in with the clean knives in the drawer!

      I once had a female coworker tell me that she thought her hands were dirtier AFTER she washed them than they had been before, right after she'd used the latrine! So she didn't bother washing them she said.

      At a birthday party my daughter and I were invited to when she was little, the hostess stored the knife for cutting the cake under the coffee table on the floor!

      For some reason some people simply can't wrap their minds around the idea that germs exist and that they can harm you very badly if you let them. They'll say something like, "I'm 43 years old and these bad habits of mine haven't made me sick yet."

      Hand washing and keeping work areas and tools for working with food clean at all times can go a long way towards better health -- if only people would take that to heart.

    • rtburroughs2 profile image

      Robert Burroughs 4 years ago

      I have been working on expanding this hub. Food safety is a very important issue.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      Food safety is so important and paying attention to just a few details could save you or a member of your family a serious illness that could put you in the hospital or even cause death. Prevention is so simple if you know what to do.

      I recommend you read my hub about washing your hands correctly. In fact you can never get the water hot enough to bother any germs much less kill them. You would scald your hands if you did that. Water temperature isn't so important as soap and scrubbing.

      Very good hub with important advice. Voted up and useful!

    • rtburroughs2 profile image

      Robert Burroughs 5 years ago

      Thank you Mom, and Au Fait for the comments. I actually did learn some useful information while in culinary school.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 5 years ago from North Texas

      This is a hub everyone should read. So many people are careless or uninformed on this subject and a lot of illness could be prevented by these simple measures.

      You have no idea how many restaurant workers visit the bathroom and then do not wash their hands before leaving!

      This is a great hub. Voting it UP, useful, and sharing it with my followers because it involves very important information that can keep them healthy.

    • rtburroughs2 profile image

      Robert Burroughs 6 years ago

      Sanitation is very important to food safety. You can follow the links for more information on proper food temperature.

    • profile image

      Mary Anderton 6 years ago

      Food safety is very important. We all need to remember the basics.

    • Christina Rule profile image

      Christina Rule 6 years ago

      Very well written, and very good information.