Cross-contamination is when part of one thing that can be dangerous ends up on something else. Cross-contamination can happen in many different industries, but we most often think about it in medicine and food service. In food service, cross-contamination usually involves either allergens or bacteria from raw foods spreading between foods or uncleaned surfaces. Cross-contamination can lead to sickness and food poisoning, which is dangerous and can make your business lose customers. Luckily, cross-contamination is relatively easy to prevent if you follow these four simple tips – the 4 C’s.
Compartmentalize to Minimize Cross-Contamination
The first step to food safety is to keep separate stuff separated. This is true from the shopping cart to storage areas. When you’re buying things like raw meat, it is important to separate them from any fresh veggies or other items in your cart and shopping bags. Once you get them back to your kitchen, make sure that raw meats are sealed to prevent leaks and then store them in different refrigerators than fresh produce if possible. If a separate refrigerator isn’t feasible, store raw meats below any fresh produce so if they do drip, there won’t be cross-contamination.
Clean (Most Things) to Avoid Cross-Contamination
Cleaning is the name of the game… usually. Most foods that come into your kitchen need to be thoroughly washed, including fruits and veggies. Raw poultry, however, shouldn’t be rinsed. Rinsing the bacteria off the raw poultry usually just results in it spreading around and increases the likelihood of cross-contamination. It is equally important to clean your work surfaces, appliances, and utensils adequately. These days with COVID, most of us are cleaning machines, but don’t forget the basics – knives and cutting boards will have to get washed between different foods.
Cook to Avoid Cross-Contamination
All raw meats should be cooked to a proper internal temperature, as measured by a thermometer. Many cooks can eyeball meats, but if there is worry about bacterial contamination, always check the internal temperature. Even things that get microwaved need to be treated correctly and allowed to sit, so the heat evenly distributes.
Cool or Chill Properly
Finally, foods need to be refrigerated or frozen promptly at proper temperatures. Fridges should be 40 degrees or cooler, and freezers need to be 0 degrees or colder. Both freezers and fridges need to have space between items so that cold air can circulate. Once you bring foods into the kitchen, they need to go into the fridge or freezer promptly. Once they are prepared, they should go back in the fridge till they are served, and leftovers should be put away quickly.
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