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).