You may have heard the term “cross-contact” before, but what is cross contact? Is it the same as cross-contamination? And most importantly, how can you avoid it in your restaurant kitchen?

Cross contact is most likely to occur when utensils or hands that have come into contact with an allergen are used to prepare food that doesn’t contain the allergen.

It can be a severe problem for people with food allergies. Even trace amounts of an allergen can cause a reaction in some people. 

Cross contact in a restaurant - what is the definition of cross contact?

What Is Cross-Contact?

Cross-contact is the term used to describe the transfer of allergens from one food to another. This can happen when two foods come into contact with each other, such as when they are prepared or served together. 

While this is a common occurrence, it is important to be aware of it if you or someone you know has a food allergy. That’s because even trace amounts of an allergen can cause a severe reaction in people with allergies.

What Is the Difference Between Cross-Contamination and Cross-Contact?

When it comes to food, the terms cross-contamination and cross-contact are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two. 

Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria or other contaminants are transferred from one surface to another. This can happen when raw meat comes into contact with cooked meat or when utensils used for raw meat are used to prepare food that will not be cooked. 

This can also happen when gluten-free foods come into contact with wheat-containing foods or when milk-based products come into contact with lactose-free products.

Cross-contamination and cross-contact can both be dangerous. Cross-contamination can cause food poisoning, while cross-contact can trigger allergic reactions. 

The best way to avoid these problems is to practice good food safety habits. Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other food, wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat, and clean all utensils and surfaces that have come into contact with raw meat. When preparing allergy-friendly foods, use separate utensils and surfaces, and avoid contaminating the food with allergens.

What Causes Cross-Contact?

Cross-contact is most likely to occur with foods that contain allergens, such as peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, soy, and fish. However, any food can cause an allergic reaction if it comes into contact with a food allergen.

There are two ways that cross-contact can occur: direct and indirect. 

  • Direct cross-contact happens when allergens come into contact with food or surfaces that will eventually touch food. 
  • Indirect cross-contact occurs when allergens float in the air and land on food or surfaces that eventually touch food.

The most common cause is improper cleaning. If surfaces or utensils that have come into contact with an allergen are not cleaned properly, they can contaminate other foods. This is why it’s so important to wash hands, utensils, and surfaces thoroughly after they’ve been in contact with an allergen.

Another common cause of cross-contact is food preparation. If foods that contain allergens are not appropriately prepared, they can contaminate other foods. For example, if a raw chicken is not cooked thoroughly, the allergen proteins can transfer to other foods that come in contact with it.

Cross-contact can also occur during storage, transportation, and service. For example, if there are no separate storage areas for allergen-containing foods, those foods can contaminate other foods. Or if allergen-containing foods are not wrapped properly, they can release allergens into the air, which can land on other foods.

4 Examples of Cross Contact 

Cross-contact  can happen during the supply, preparation, cooking, or storage of food.

There are four main ways that cross-contact can occur:

Supply: Allergens can be transferred from one food to another if they are supplied in containers that have not been properly cleaned. For example, if a previously held peanuts container is used to supply flour, the flour will become contaminated with peanut allergens.

Preparation: Cross-contact can also occur during food preparation. For example, if chopping boards and knives are not properly cleaned between uses, they can transfer allergens from one food to another.

Cooking: Allergens can also be transferred from one food to another during cooking. For example, if a pan used to cook chicken is then used for cooking potatoes, the potatoes will become contaminated with chicken allergens.

Storage: Cross-contact can also occur during food storage. For example, if food is stored in containers that have not been appropriately cleaned, allergens can be transferred from one food to another.

How to Avoid Cross Contact?

There are a few things you can do to avoid cross-contact when cooking or eating. 

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling any food allergens.
  • Keep all food allergens separate from other foods. This includes using different cutting boards, utensils, and serving plates/platters.
  • Be aware of shared cooking surfaces and equipment. If you are cooking for someone with a food allergy, clean all surfaces and equipment thoroughly before and after use.

Where Should Allergenic Food Be Stored to Prevent Cross Contact?

For food allergies, it’s important to avoid cross-contact, which occurs when allergenic proteins are transferred from one food to another. 

Allergenic food should ideally be stored in a separate area, away from other food items. However, this is not always possible, especially if you’re running a small business with limited storage space. In that case, it’s important to take precautions to avoid cross-contact.

Some ways to do this include labeling allergenic food items clearly and storing them in a place where they won’t come into contact with other food. You can also use color-coded containers or storage racks to help keep things organized. And, of course, it’s always a good idea to have a cleaning schedule in place and make sure everyone on your team is aware of it. By taking these precautions, you can keep yourself safe from accidental exposure to allergens.

The bottom line 

Managing a restaurant today is no easy task. You’re dealing with complex processes, and limited resources, and will be under the microscope of new regulations.

That’s why thousands of restaurants choose to manage their kitchen operations with KNOW, a digital restaurant management solution that’s reliable and easy to use.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the best method for preventing allergen cross contact from raw eggs?

To prevent cross-contact from raw eggs and protect those with egg allergies:
  1. Separate Tools: Use different utensils and cutting boards exclusively for raw eggs.
  2. Designate Areas: Have specific areas in the kitchen just for handling raw eggs to avoid contact with other foods.
  3. Clean Hands and Change Gloves: Wash hands thoroughly after touching raw eggs. If using gloves, change them before handling other foods.
  4. Store Eggs Separately: Keep raw eggs in the fridge away from other ingredients, and use containers to prevent spills.
  5. Clean and Sanitize: Regularly clean surfaces, utensils, and equipment that touch raw eggs. Use sanitizing solutions.
  6. Train Staff: Educate kitchen staff about preventing cross-contact and the severity of egg allergies.
  7. Label and Communicate: Clearly label raw egg containers and communicate the importance of avoiding cross-contact.
  8. Review Menus and Recipes: Regularly check menus and recipes for potential cross-contact sources, and adjust as needed.
  9. Check with Suppliers: Ensure suppliers provide eggs meeting safety standards and are free from contaminants.
  10. Audit and Inspect: Conduct regular checks to ensure safety protocols are followed and address issues promptly.
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