Prevent Cross-Contamination in Food


Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, hands, cutting boards, utensils, etc. The most common form of cross-contamination is from mishandling raw meats. By not separating raw meats from each other as well as from ready-to-eat foods, you are increasing the risk of foodborne illness.

Food Storage

Foods should be stored in this order if on the same rack:

  • TOP: Ready-to-eat foods/produce/cooked meats
  • Raw fish
  • Raw beef and pork
  • BOTTOM: Raw chicken

As you can see, raw chicken should always be on the bottom. If raw chicken is stored above produce, the potential for salmonella from the chicken to contaminate the produce will increase. Eating this produce with salmonella will make someone sick. Larger operations with more space may have all raw chicken on one rack and ready-to-eat foods in another storage area. This is the best way to prevent cross-contamination during storage.

Prep Areas, Cutting Boards, Utensils

When knives, scoops, spoons, cutting boards, counters, etc., come in contact with raw meats, they must be cleaned and sanitized before coming in contact with other foods. This becomes more difficult in small kitchens that handle many different raw meats. Try these tips:

  • Have different utensils designated for different meats.
  • Be sure to have a sanitizer bucket close.
  • Try to keep different raw meats stored away from each other on different stations.

Hand Washing during Service

The most important thing to manage during service is proper hand washing. This should be an important part of any food safety training program. Just like utensils and prep areas, if hands come in contact with raw meats, they must be washed with soap and hot water before handling any equipment or food. Even when wearing gloves, if handling any raw meats, hands need to be washed and gloves changed. On a large cook line, it’s best to have one cook handle raw beef and a different cook handle all the raw chicken and so on.

When a health inspector observes the kitchen, he or she will check to see if employees are wearing gloves and washing hands when necessary. If proper hand washing isn’t happening, the inspector should report it as a critical violation.

Cross-contamination is extremely difficult to prevent 100 percent of the time. However, putting policies in place for the storage and handling of raw meats is your best defense in keeping food and customers safe. Make sure all employees are trained on safe food-handling policies.

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