What is cross contamination in food hygiene?

What is cross contamination?

‘Cross contamination’. It’s a term flung around in everyday life and one you most probably have heard of before, but what actually is it? What does it mean? And what can you do to stop it from occurring in your own home or professional kitchen?

Cross contamination is the movement of bacteria from one surface to another through vehicles of contamination. For example, salmonella bacteria from raw chicken may pass onto another food stuff through the touch of an unwashed hand, causing the other food stuff to be contaminated with salmonella. 

This can also happen with allergens. Food that is inherently free from an allergen, such as sugar, may be contaminated with an allergen such as a nut, perhaps through contact or because particles were transferred in some other way, due to both ingredients being used in the same food preparation space. Cross contamination is when an allergen or dangerous microbe transfers from one food stuff to another, contaminating it.

Cross contamination can have dangerous consequences in the home or business, and could make you or people very ill. Therefore, you should always do your best to make sure that any bacteria in your kitchen is killed before it has chance to contaminate anything, and the best way to do this is to have a strict and thorough cleaning routine combined with a good understanding or cross contamination and how it can be prevented.

How to prevent cross contamination

When cleaning your kitchen, you must always make sure that any crumbs or physical food debris are cleared away before you begin the cleaning process. The best way to corrode grease and dirt is to use hot water and detergent, and to then use fresh, clean water to rinse surfaces. You should then follow up with a disinfectant to really tackle any lurking bacteria, and again rinse that away with freshwater. 

Importantly, you should then leave surfaces to air dry. Using dry cloths can actually transfer bacteria onto clean surfaces, and so it is better to leave the cloths out and let your kitchen counter dry naturally. 

Your cleaning routine should also include washing up, whether that be by hand or through the use of a dishwasher. When washing up by hand, you should always have rubber gloves prepared to protect your hands from the hot water. After clearing away leftover foods into a bin, use hot soapy water to wash dishes, baking equipment and utensils as this will kill the bacteria most efficiently. Then, follow up with a fresh rinse, perhaps using disinfectant, before being stacked to air dry- no dry cloths!

The best way to ensure that the food in your home is safe to consume is to ensure that you store and treat it correctly. Please explore our other posts in order to learn more about spoilage. 

You can also access more information through our Level Two Food Hygiene and Safety course. Visit essentialfoodhygiene.co.uk to find out more. 


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