Cross contamination is a big problem in the food industry, and it’s only getting worse. With the rise of new foodborne illnesses, it’s more important than ever for restaurants to take precautions to avoid it. 

There are a few simple steps restaurants can take, but unfortunately, many restaurants either don’t know about them or don’t take them seriously. As a result, diners risk getting sick from eating contaminated food. 

Cross-contamination in Restaurants

What is Cross Contamination?

Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria from one surface to another. In restaurants, it can occur when raw meat and poultry come into contact with cooked or ready-to-eat food. It can also occur when utensils or equipment used to prepare raw food are not properly sanitized before coming into contact with cooked or ready-to-eat food.

It is a severe public health concern because it can lead to foodborne illness. Harmful bacteria can multiply quickly on contaminated surfaces, and if they are not removed, they can be transferred to other surfaces and foods. This can cause people who eat contaminated food to become ill.

How Does Cross Contamination Occur in Restaurants?

Cross-contamination occurs in restaurants when food that is supposed to be cooked separately comes into contact with other food, surfaces, utensils, or equipment. This can happen during food preparation, cooking, or serving. If not properly prevented or controlled, it can lead to foodborne illness.

There are many ways that it can occur in restaurants. Some common examples include:

  • Using the same cutting board for raw meat and vegetables without washing them in between
  • Cooking raw meat on the same grill as vegetables or other already-cooked foods
  • Using the same tongs or spatulas to handle both raw and cooked foods
  • Not properly washing hands after handling raw meat and then handling other foods
  • Not cleaning countertops, cutting boards, or other surfaces that have come into contact with raw meat

Cross Contamination vs Contamination

Cross-contamination and contamination are two separate things. 

  • Cross-contamination is when bacteria or other microorganisms are transferred from one food item to another. This can happen when food is prepared on the same surface without properly cleaning in between, or if utensils and other equipment are not properly sanitized. 
  • Contamination, on the other hand, is when bacteria or other microorganisms are present in a food item. This can happen when food is not properly cooked or stored or if it comes into contact with contaminated surfaces or utensils.

Types of cross contamination

There are several types of cross-contamination, including:
  1. Physical cross-contamination: This occurs when harmful microorganisms or other contaminants are transferred from one surface to another through direct contact. Examples of physical cross-contamination include using the same cutting board for raw meat and vegetables, or using a dirty utensil to handle ready-to-eat food.
  2. Biological cross-contamination: This occurs when harmful microorganisms are transferred from one food item to another through contact with contaminated surfaces, equipment, or hands. Examples of biological cross-contamination include using a cutting board that has been used to prepare raw chicken and then using it to prepare a salad without cleaning it first.
  3. Chemical cross-contamination: This occurs when chemical contaminants such as cleaning solutions or pesticides are transferred from one surface or food item to another. Examples of chemical cross-contamination include using a cleaning solution that is not properly rinsed off of a surface before food is prepared on it.
  4. Allergen cross-contamination: This occurs when allergens such as peanuts, gluten, or dairy are transferred from one food item to another through contact with contaminated surfaces, equipment, or hands.

Occurrence of Cross-Contamination in Restaurants

There are many ways cross-contamination can occur in restaurants. Some of the most common include:

  1. Food preparation surfaces – If food preparation surfaces are not cleaned properly, they can become contaminated with bacteria from raw meat, poultry, or seafood. 
  2. Cutting boards – Cutting boards can also contaminate bacteria from raw meat, poultry, or seafood. If these boards are not cleaned properly between uses, they can cause cross-contamination.
  3. Utensils – Utensils used to prepare raw meat, poultry, or seafood can contaminate other foods if they are not cleaned properly between uses.
  4. Storage containers – Storage containers used to store raw meat, poultry, or seafood can contaminate other foods if they are not cleaned properly between uses.
  5. Serving platters – Serving platters that have been used to serve raw meat, poultry, or seafood can also contaminate other foods if they are not cleaned properly between uses

Causes of Cross-Contamination in Restaurants

There are many potential causes of cross-contamination in restaurants. Some of the most common include:

  • Improper food handling: This is perhaps the most common cause of cross-contamination in restaurants. When food is not properly handled, it can easily become contaminated with bacteria or other contaminants.
  • Poorly designed kitchens: If a restaurant’s kitchen is not designed properly, it can be very easy for cross-contamination to occur. For example, if there is only one sink for food preparation and dishes, then contaminated water can easily spread to food.
  • Lack of hygiene: This is another frequent cause of cross-contamination in restaurants. If staff members do not practice good hygiene, they can contaminate food and surfaces with bacteria and other contaminants.
  • Pest infestations: Pests can also spread contaminants around a restaurant, leading to cross-contamination.

How to Prevent Cross-Contamination in Restaurants? 

One of the most important things you can do to prevent cross-contamination in restaurants is to practice good hygiene. This means washing your hands thoroughly and often, especially after handling raw meat or poultry. You should also avoid touching your face, particularly your mouth and eyes, while preparing food.

It’s also important to clean and sanitize all surfaces and utensils that come into contact with food. This includes countertops, cutting boards, knives, and other cooking tools. Be sure to use hot water and soap when washing and a sanitizing solution when disinfecting.

Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from other food items. If possible, designate one area of your kitchen for preparing these items. This will help avoid potential problems if there is an accident or spillage.

Finally, make sure you cook food properly. Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can all contain harmful bacteria that can cause illness. Make sure these items are cooked thoroughly until they reach the appropriate internal temperature. This will help to kill any bacteria that may be present.

How to train staff to prevent cross-contamination in Restaurants?

One of the most important things you can do to prevent cross-contamination in your restaurant is to train your staff on proper food handling procedures. Here are a few tips on how to do this:

  1. Make sure your staff members are properly trained in food safety and handling procedures.
  2. Create a written policy that outlines your procedures for preventing cross-contamination.
  3. Post clear signs and reminders in your kitchen and prep areas about proper food handling procedures.
  4. Conduct regular audits of your kitchen and prep areas to ensure that all staff follow proper procedures.
  5. If you see any potential problems with cross-contamination, address them immediately with your staff members.

Digital Food Safety Management with KNOW 

KNOW‘s food safety management tools can help you easily keep track of all your food safety records in one place. This includes monitoring and managing temperatures, keeping track of expiration dates, and documenting incidents or accidents. KNOW makes it easy to identify potential contamination risks and take action to prevent them. By keeping a close eye on your food safety records, you can help ensure that your restaurant runs smoothly and safely.

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