Reducing Cross-Contamination During Food Preparation
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 colors, materials and size. Choose one that will suite 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 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.
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.
For more information and detailed articles about cross-contamination, click on these links:
- Cross-Contamination - How to Avoid Allergy Cross-Contamination
Even foods made without allergens aren't safe if they've come into contact with allergy-triggering foods. Here's how to avoid cross-contamination at home and in restaurants.
- Foodborne illness - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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