When trying to avoid cross contamination in your own home or work kitchen, it can often appear more complicated then you think. This blog will provide you with some simple and easy tips on cross contamination prevention, helping you steer clear of unhealthy outbreaks in your kitchen and ensuring that each meal you cook is the best quality it can be.
When we think of cross contamination, what springs to mind is uncooked food and for many of us, this can bring up memories from food technology classes in school. We were taught the basics of food preparation and how important it was to use a specific practice in your cooking. Yet, as we get older we often forget to prioritise this in our day-to-day lives. Take the use of knives as an example, it’s important to use different utensils when preparing different foods. If you are cutting raw meat or poultry, you must ensure a different knife is used for vegetables. If not, you could be passing on bacteria that may not be killed through cooking.
Likewise, swapping your chopping boards is a must! Most professional kitchens have coloured chopping boards that are catered to different food uses. For example, a red board is usually associated with raw meat, and a different colour can be assigned to the preparation of vegetables and seafood. These are just a few of the simple and effective ways to reduce cross contamination in the kitchen.
We all know that it is good practice to wash your hands before preparing a meal, however many of us forget that washing your hands after preparing food is also extremely important. This is especially true when handling raw meat. Washing your hands regularly, with anti-bacterial soap and warm water, in between food preparation, should be at the top of your to-do list. It instantly reduces the chance of bacteria spreading from the meat to other foods and parts of your kitchen – such as the kitchen surfaces and the dining table.
Don’t forget, whilst we should wash our hands regularly, we should also replace our chopping boards regularly too. Bacteria can build up in the grooves of the chopping board that often get created through continued use. This can affect any material, so it is best to regularly change both your plastic and wooden chopping boards.
Although cross contamination is often associated with food preparation, it is just as important to consider the role your refrigerator has in preventing food from spoiling or contaminating other items.
The fridge is the home for your food and it should keep your food in a good condition until its use by date. However, it has to be regulated to a temperature that prevents the increase in bacteria that can cause food to rot and mould. By keeping your refrigerator temperature between 1C and 4C it will provide a chilled, but not frozen, environment to keep food fresh and maintain its lifespan. If food is left out at room temperature, it is likely to cause growth in bacteria that is harmful to the body when consumed.
As such, the fridge temperature should not be too hot. Whilst you can store cooked foods for a couple of days, you should not place hot food straight into the fridge. This will raise the average temperature and create the potential for bacteria to grow and other viruses and parasites to form. Considering how temperature can affect food is so important; unregulated control can lead to food spoilage and illness.
Next, we must consider how best to organise our fridge – this is a key factor in cross contamination prevention. Start by separating food into groups; meat, fish and poultry are most likely to cause contamination as they can cause illness when consumed raw. To prevent this, use sealed containers or bags to confine the meat and any released liquid, as this will stop any leakages in the fridge that may contaminate other food on the shelf. Additionally, ensure that foods such as these are kept on the lowest shelf in the fridge. The lowest shelf is the coldest part and it also ensures that if there is a leak, it is less likely to travel through the rest of the fridge and onto other food items.
Whilst cooking can be fun and enjoyable, it also has the potential to become dangerous if food preparation and food storage is not taken seriously or carried out in the proper manner. However, by using these few practical steps, you should be able to create a safe kitchen environment and play an active role in cross contamination prevention.