Cross contamination

What is cross contamination?

Cross contamination occurs when one object becomes contaminated by either direct or indirect contact with another object which is already contaminated.

Why is cross contamination a problem?

Cross contamination can cause food poisoning when bacteria is transferred onto food that is ready to eat. For example, if raw meat comes into contact with a sandwich, the person eating the sandwich will consume the bacteria that was on the raw meat.

How does cross contamination occur?

Common activities that result in cross contamination include:

  • using the same knife or chopping board to cut both raw and ready-to-eat foods
  • using the handwash basin for defrosting food or placing dirty utensils and equipment
  • storing food uncovered or on the floor of the fridge or freezer
  • storing raw food above ready-to-eat food
  • re-using cloths to wipe benches, cutlery and tables
  • using a towel to dry hands which is then used for drying equipment, utensils or dishes.

How to prevent cross contamination

Some ways to help prevent cross contamination include:

  • use separate utensils or thoroughly wash and sanitise utensils between handling raw and ready-to-eat foods
  • keep food covered and off the floor during storage
  • avoid any unnecessary touching of food
  • store raw foods, especially meat and fish, on the bottom shelf of the fridge to prevent raw meat juices dripping onto ready-to-eat foods
  • keep cleaning chemicals and other non-food items stored away from food
  • regularly change, wash and sanitise cleaning cloths. Never use cloths used for cleaning toilets or similar areas for cleaning anything that may come in contact with food.
  • ideally, let equipment and utensils air dry after washing and sanitising
  • always wash and thoroughly dry your hands when starting work, changing tasks, or returning from a break (including a cigarette or toilet break).