Safety and Sanitation: Prevent Cross Contamination in the Kitchen

Woman in hair curlers in a kitchen yellingSafety in the kitchen is not limited to securing sharp or hot objects. Cross contamination can result from foodborne illness and food poisoning. Cross contamination occurs when bacteria is transferred from one food to another. This transfer can occur while grocery shopping. It can also occur when transporting, storing, or preparing food. Items that are not stored or cooked properly can allow bacteria to grow in food, making individuals who eat the food susceptible to sickness. People who have a compromised immune system are especially at risk for foodborne illness.

One of the most common cross contamination scenarios is when bacteria from meat leaks onto produce that will be eaten uncooked, such as lettuce. In addition, bacteria can be commonly transferred from a cutting board, counter surface, or a person’s hand.

To prevent cross contamination when shopping:

  • Separate meats, poultry, and seafood from other items in the grocery cart.
  • Place the above-mentioned foods in clear plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods.
  • Pass meats, poultry, and seafood on the checkout counter after all other items.

When packing food in the refrigerator:

  • Keep eggs in their original carton and refrigerate as soon as possible.
  • Place raw meats, poultry, and seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags to prevent the juices from contaminating other foods.

When cooking food:

  • Wash hands regularly. Use soap and hot water before and after handling the food. Always wash your hands after using the restroom, handling pets, and changing diapers.
  • Wash kitchen surfaces regularly. Use hot, soapy water to wipe kitchen surfaces and any spills that occur. If you use cloth wipes instead of paper towels, you should wash the cloths often in hot water.
  • Dishes, cutting boards, and counter tops should be washed with soapy water after preparing one item, before moving on to another item. Make sure to keep a stash cleaning supplies from handy for cleaning purposes.
  • If possible, keep a separate cutting board for fresh produce.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables in running tap water to remove visible dirt and grime.
  • Discard the outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage.

When serving food:

  • Use clean dishes.
  • Do not place cooked food on a surface that previously held raw food.