If you’ve chopped raw meat and fruit at the same time on the same chopping board, sneezed in front of the food before serving it, then you’ve cross-contaminated your food.
According to experts, approximately 600 million people in the world, or one in every ten people, become ill. Also, around 420,000 die each year after consuming contaminated food.
What Is Cross-Contamination?
Cross-contamination is the transfer of microorganisms from one place to another. Microorganisms to watch for are bacteria, molds, and intestinal parasites.
Cross-contamination also includes the transfer of allergens, chemicals, and toxins. Additionally, it’s the common cause of foodborne illness for most people. A common symptom to look for when one has consumed contaminated food is diarrhea.
Cross-contamination does not only happen in restaurants, but also in other places where food is being touched or processed such as food manufacturing, storage, preparation, and serving.
With a lot of possibility for food to be contaminated, it’s always critical to make sure that food, tools, and the person handling it is always clean and sanitized. Also, everyone needs to know what are the types of cross-contamination.
What Are The Types Of Cross-Contamination?
Cross-contamination is classified into three types namely food-to-food, person-to-food, and equipment-to-food.
- Food-To-Food: This happens when you place contaminated food together with non-contaminated food. For example, placing an unpackaged and damp chicken on the top shelf of the refrigerator. In this case, the chicken drippings may fall into other food, thus contaminating them. This permits pathogenic bacteria to cultivate in other food.
Some common bacterial suspects are Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Campylobacter, and E. coli. The most common among them is coliform, E. coli. These bacteria can populate and produce toxins that cause harmful effects to your body.
- Equipment-To-Food: It’s the most common type of contamination, yet still unrecognized. This usually happens when someone forgets to clean contaminated tools after using them. For example, using the same chopping board for raw meats and vegetables, which can be harmful, especially if you eat the veggies raw. If this happens, you may be transferring a considerable number of bacteria to your food.
Additionally, this is critical and dangerous to anyone because bacteria can survive for a long period on surfaces, utensils, or storage containers. Thus, allowing them to propagate.
- Person-To-Food Contamination: Food preparation consists of many steps. This opens the opportunity for greater bacterial transfer if you’re not careful enough.
Coughing or sneezing with your hands, touching your face or hair, or using your cellphone before handling food can cause contamination. Thus, making sure your hands are clean is essential in food handling. Wash your hands with soap and water for about 20 seconds. This by far, is the simplest but effective way to reduce contamination.
What Are The Side Effects?
The common side effects due to food contamination may range from mild to severe cases. It includes loss of appetite, nausea, headache, and diarrhea. In most situations, side effects may present themselves within 24 hours of intake but they can still appear even after a week. Thus, making it difficult to assess what may have caused the illness.
If you’re experiencing the side effects for more than two days, consult your doctor right away to prevent your case from worsening.
What Are The Ways To Reduce It?
Cross-contamination may be fatal to some, but it’s easy to reduce. All you need is to follow these tips.
- Store Food In Food-Designated Areas
Never place foods near other non-food products, such as detergent soap, bleach, strong acids and cleaners, and other toxic substances. The strong smell can penetrate the food and may cause possible reactions that are harmful to humans.
Also, don’t ever think of using empty chemical containers for food. There are no excuses for that. This may only increase the risk of food poisoning and may even lead to death. You don’t want to risk your life just to save money for that container. So, if you need new and clean storage, visit tdipacksys.com and other sites.
- Separate Raw Food Away From Ready-To-Eat Food
As much as possible, separate raw food from cooked and ready-to-eat food. You may use additional containers or you may put food on the refrigerator on different shelves according to their classification. Store them in this order from top to bottom, cooked meals, fruits and vegetables, seafood, raw meats, and poultry. The order is based on their minimum internal cooking temperature.
Also, never allow foods to come in contact with surfaces that have been stained by raw meats and other raw food ingredients. You can prevent this by preparing raw food at a different time than cooked food.
- Wash Produce Properly
Fresh produce can be contaminated in so many ways, so it’s better to prevent them as much as possible. Follow these steps to wash your produce properly:
- Wash them in running slightly warm water.
- For leafy green vegetables, pull apart every leaf and wash them properly.
- If you’re soaking them, make sure not to mix different fruits and vegetables or do multiple batches at the same time.
- For sliced fruits and vegetables, refrigerate them at a temperature not higher than five degrees Celsius or 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Sanitize Everything
Make sure everything is clean before preparing food. Wash all tools and equipment, sanitize the kitchen surfaces, and dry them properly. Moisture is an important factor for microorganisms to live. So, make sure that all tools are dry before and each time you use them.
- Take Note Of Allergens
Allergens may come from milk, peanuts, gluten-rich foods, or fish. If not properly taken care of, they may trigger a harmful allergic reaction to someone and cause death in most severe cases. So, it’s important to consistently and adequately wash all tools and equipment before and after using them.
Washing dishes with soap and hands might be even more effective rather than using a sponge or dishcloth. These tools may retain bacteria and possible allergens which are not suitable for allergen-free dishes.
If you are comfortable using a sponge, consider having a different or a color-coded sponge for each type of allergen. For example, you may use green for peanuts, blue for milk, and other colors for other allergens. This may help prevent allergens from transferring from one food or tool to another.
- Wash Your Chopping Boards
It’s a basic rule not to use the same chopping boards for a different type of food. You may do so by having various color-coded cutting boards for every food. For example, a green one is for fruits and vegetables, a blue one is for seafood, a red one is for red meats, and a white one is for poultry.
- Apply FIFO (First-In-First-Out) System
This is one of the essential concepts being used in the food industry and it would be beneficial if you apply it to your home. It helps you to facilitate your stocks in a well-organized manner.
FIFO works by consuming food and ingredients that have the earliest expiry or best before date. and consuming what products you opened first before opening others of the same kind. This system goes hand-in-hand with using labels, as they both allow you to manage your food storage efficiently.
To apply the idea, you may put food or ingredients that have to be consumed quickly on top or in front of your shelves or cabinet. This way, you will not be confused about what should be taken out first.
- Consider Using Proper Labels
Labels can help you prevent using the wrong ingredients. Also, these tags can aid you in determining the date when the food will go bad.
When using labels, make sure the essential information is included, such as the date prepared and the dish’s name. This will help you determine the dish you have to use first and the dish you have to dispose of quickly.
- Check Your Pantry
Always say no to using the bare floor as a part of your storage as this is a good source of bacteria. According to experts, store your food and ingredients at least six inches above the floor to ensure safety and avoid cross-contamination.
Also, keep your pantry cool, dry, and pest-free. Ensure there are no lingering critters, such as roaches and rodents that may contaminate your stocks.
- Cover Your Food
This prevents contaminants from falling into your food. Also, covering food prevents it from going bad and having a bad smell. You may use air-tight containers, foils, or plastic wraps to protect your food.
Foodborne diseases are just around the corner, waiting for someone to make a small avoidable mistake to claim someone’s life. The price of taking contaminated food is high and it’s painful, medically expensive, and time-consuming. However, it’s easy to prevent it by following these comprehensive ways. By doing so, you’ll have a higher chance of being safe.
If you’re planning to run a restaurant business, consider enrolling in a food safety training program. The training program will teach you everything you need to know to run your food business safely.