Preventing Cross-Contamination in Professional Kitchens
Cross-contamination is a real threat to public health, and food preparation businesses have a duty of care to ensure they are not responsible for putting the public at risk. Bacteria and viruses exist everywhere and can contaminate food during preparation and storage if the incorrect procedures are not followed. Common sources of contamination include raw meat, unclean hands, chopping boards and kitchen utensils. Though it may not seem obvious, inadequate food safety labels also contribute to cross-contamination.Let’s examine a few of the common causes of cross-contamination, so Chefs and Restaurant Managers may help their staff to minimise it.
Food Preparation Tips to Avoid Cross-Contamination
- Use colour-coded utensils. A range of utensils in specific colours is available. Use red for raw meats, green for fruit and vegetables etc.
- Rinse all fruit and vegetables.
- This simple strategy will remove the bacteria, pesticides, and dirt that found its way to the skin of the food yet should not make its way to the plate.
- Store raw foods away from ready to eat foods.
- Bacteria is alive and it moves. Keeping these two categories apart will help prevent the bacteria in the raw food from being transported to the prepared food.
- Clean and sanitise all equipment.
- Most kitchen staff thoroughly clean their equipment. However, many forget to go to the next stage and sanitise it. Cleaning removes dirt and grime. Sanitising removes the bacteria which is the cause of cross-contamination.
- Wash and sanitise hands after breaks, toilet use, mobile phone use, and between handling different foods.
- Keep food out of the temperature danger zone between 50C and 600C. This is the temperature in which bacteria flourish and must be avoided.
Safe Food Storage Techniques
- Only use food-grade storage containers.
- Never store food in opened tins.
- Ensure all containers are cleaned and sanitised prior to use.
- Check that container lids create a firm seal.
- Store bacteria susceptible foods outside the temperature danger zone.
- Always ensure all foods are consumed before their use-by date.
Food Safety Labels
Ensure all food safety labels contain accurate information in relation to –
- Use-by and best-before dates.
- Stage of preparation the food has reached.
- The correct label adhesive is used for the applicable use.
This final point is vital. Too often, incorrect adhesives are used for unsuitable conditions and food safety labels fall off, rendering any information they contain useless. Take some time to ensure the labels used in your kitchen are fit for purpose.
Cross-contamination is a huge concern in professional kitchens, as it relates directly to public health. Ensure your staff are trained in how to avoid cross-contamination and have access to the best equipment and food safety labels to make the training meaningful.