How to Prevent Cross-Contamination

Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Cross-contamination can lead to foodborne illness. In this lesson, we'll look at the various ways to prevent cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria and germs between foods.

What Is Cross-Contamination?

If you love cooking you know that an evening in the kitchen can end up looking like a war zone. There are dishes everywhere, various utensils, pots, pans, cutting boards, and all sorts of other cooking equipment. This can be a dangerous situation though because it can lead to cross-contamination. This is when cooked or ready to eat food comes in contact with raw or contaminated food. For example, if raw chicken comes in contact with a bowl of cooked rice, or if raw hamburger meat comes in contact with the buns.

Cross-contamination can cause problems because bacteria or germs in the raw food can be transferred to food that is going to be eaten without any method of destroying those germs or bacteria. When you cook chicken you do so for long enough to kill any bacteria, just like with eggs and other meats. But if those bacteria get transferred to a plate of veggies that is headed for the table, then you've got a problem!

So now that you know what cross-contamination is let's look at how you can prevent it, and in turn prevent you and others from getting sick.

Wash Your Hands, Surfaces and Vegetables

In general, one of the best ways to prevent bacteria and germs from spreading is to wash your hands, and it is no different when it comes to food preparation. Washing your hands after you touch raw meats, go to bathroom, scratch your face, or touch anything else will help prevent harmful things from being spread. Washing your kitchen surfaces will also help keep things clean and germ-free.

Wash your hands and kitchen surface often while cooking to prevent germs and bacteria from spreading.
clean counter

Rinsing produce is another good way to prevent bacteria and germs from spreading around the kitchen. Who knows how many other people picked up that apple in the grocery store before you did? You don't really know who has handled your food before you did, so washing produce before eating it will reduce the transmission of any unwanted 'extras' that might be present.

Washing produce before eating it is a good way to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria.
washing produce

Prevention Tips for Food Prep and Service

When preparing foods, a really good way to prevent cross-contamination is to use different cutting boards and utensils for different types of foods. For example, use one cutting board and knife for your raw meat, but use a different set for cutting vegetables. And of course, make sure your all of your cutting boards are knives are clean before using them!

Also make sure to use fresh plates for serving, especially if any of the plates you used had raw meat on them. It's silly to cook meat and then put it back on the plate it was on when it was raw because those germs and bacteria will still be present on the plate until it is washed thoroughly.

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