Food safety

How do you avoid cross contamination?

The first step to avoiding cross contamination is understanding how it can occur. Basic food safety operations such as ...

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  • The first step to avoiding cross contamination is understanding how it can occur.
  • Basic food safety operations such as handwashing, proper storage, labelling, and regular cleaning can significantly help avoid cross contamination.
  • The best way to avoid cross contamination is to implement a comprehensive food safety management system.

In every step of the food supply chain, a significant food safety hazard such as cross contamination can happen right under everyone's noses. Without adequate knowledge of proper food safety practices, cross contamination can happen at the slightest of touch. A mere accident of putting down a raw chicken on a counter surface can significantly increase the risk of foodborne illnesses. Similarly, food handlers who don't regularly wash their hands can cause cross contamination on a wide scale. As such, all individuals involved in food preparation must ask themselves how do you avoid cross contamination.

Every year, a large portion of the cases of foodborne illnesses is caused by cross contamination of foodborne pathogens. Such cases occur because of the lack of food safety and hygiene training as well as a comprehensive food safety management system (FSMS). This article is not just for food handlers working in the foodservice industry. It can also be applied to home cooks who shop, prepare, and serve their meals on their own to their families.

Continue reading to find out how to avoid cross contamination in the food supply chain.


cross contamination on chopping board


How do you avoid cross contamination? Is it important?

Avoiding cross contamination starts with knowing what it is. Cross contamination is the movement of food safety hazards from one place to another, making food unsafe for consumption. This occurrence in the food supply chain accounts for a large portion of the foodborne illnesses that happen around the world. Find out more about how cross contamination happens here

Cross contamination is not limited to biological hazards only such as harmful bacteria and viruses. It can also occur to chemical and physical hazards. The best way to avoid cross contamination is to implement a comprehensive food safety program. Through such a program, the sources of food safety hazards can be identified and addressed through proper monitoring and the application of preventive actions. 


What are the 5 ways to avoid cross contamination?

There are many ways how you can avoid cross contamination in your kitchen area. Some ways are very obvious that they are part of your daily routines but are just sometimes forgotten. In avoiding cross contamination, consistency is a key ingredient. One blunder of forgetting to apply food safety practices can significantly affect your operations.


More specifically, here are some of the most effective ways how to avoid cross contamination. 

  • Proper food safety training. During training, the kitchen staff is oriented on what is cross contamination, how it occurs, what factors contribute to it, and how can you avoid it from happening. Food safety practices involve operations such as proper segregation of raw foods and those that will only be minimally processed during preparation. This also includes knowing how to use separate utensils such as knives and chopping boards when dealing with these two types of foods. 

Knowing the principles behind cross contamination does not only increase awareness among food handlers. It also allows them to appreciate its importance more. Food safety managers are responsible to provide this basic training for them. Without proper training, foodborne diseases and other related cases can occur and cost your business a lot.

Proper storage of foods and chemicals. Cross contamination requires contact between the food being prepared and another object. Knowing how should food be stored to avoid cross contamination is part of any food handler's safety training. Cross contamination can come from food handlers who did not wash their hands, food contact surfaces, other foods, or other objects such as cleaning materials. When working with chemicals, the best practice to avoid cross contamination is to properly label and store them far from the food preparation area. This means separating dry from wet ingredients, as well as properly stacking them.

Storage of foods does not mean shoving all raw materials in a cabinet or the refrigerator. They need to be properly arranged in such a way that they will not get contaminated. Particularly in a refrigerator, ready-to-eat foods, minimally processed ingredients, and raw materials must be separately stored. Foods that require thorough processing must be at the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so the juices from raw meats will not drip into foods that only require minimal processing. Use a fridge food safety layout poster to guide you on how to arrange foods inside a refrigerator. 

  • Strict food hygiene. Food hygiene refers to operations that aim to minimize the spread of bacteria through clean and safe operations. One of the most important tasks involved in food hygiene practices includes proper handwashing. This operation is perhaps one of the most effective ways of avoiding cross contamination.

Food handlers touch almost everything around the kitchen. Without washing their hands, they can spread pathogens easily from one place to another. Not to mention that humans are natural carriers of a large variety of pathogens that can be transmitted to foods. Handwashing effectively removes these pathogens and protects foods from cross contamination. Other food hygiene practices include regularly trimming nails, properly wearing protective uniforms, and not wearing soiled clothes to work.

  • Regular cleaning schedule. Similar to the principle of handwashing, kitchen surfaces as well as other areas of your kitchen must be kept tidy and sanitized. Floors, walls, windows, and ceilings, can become sources of contamination when left unclean. The buildup of dirt can unintentionally transfer to foods and therefore must be kept to a minimum.

Cleaning must be thorough, effective, and consistent. Proper concentrations of the correct cleaning agents must be used. Included in this operation is properly tidying up after, This means storing cleaning agents away from the preparation area where it can contaminate the foods being prepared.

  • Regularly monitor your operations. As we have mentioned, consistency is key in preventing cross contamination from occurring. Food handlers must maintain a high level of commitment to performing food safety operations even when no one is looking. To ensure this, food businesses must implement a working FSMS. 

At FoodDocs, we have automated this operation to make things easier for you. Our digital Food Safety Management System product can automatically generate a complete monitoring system that is based on your daily operations. You won't even have to worry about forgetting a task because our system implements a smart notification system for this particular reason.


avoid cross contamination when shopping


How to avoid cross contamination when shopping?

If you thought that cross contamination can only occur inside a kitchen, you thought wrong. The mere placement of your grocery items inside your shopping cart can cause cross contamination. Additionally, the sequence of adding ingredients to your cart can also affect this. To avoid cross contamination when shopping, follow these pointers:

  • Separate any raw ingredients, ready-to-eat food, and non-food item inside your grocery cart. If possible, use dividers or shopping bags to avoid unnecessary contact.
  • Keep food separate by putting raw meats and fresh produce last into your cart and wrapping them in plastic bags or containers so their juices won't drip all over the other food items.
  • Do not mix in cleaning agents with food items on your cart.
  • Keep frozen foods away from those that are purchased warm to slow down the thawing process and keep them cold longer.
  • Check whether the packaging of the items you buy is in good condition.



How to avoid cross contamination when preparing food?

During common food preparation, foods are most at risk of becoming contaminated especially with poor food safety practices. The operations mentioned above are general and can be applied throughout the whole food chain. Here are some specific tasks which you can do to avoid cross contamination during food preparation:

  • Regularly wash hands with soapy water before and after handling foods.
  • Use separate cutting boards and clean kitchen tools when preparing raw and partially cooked foods.
  • Cover raw foods or put them in clean containers to minimize the spread of any potential hazards.
  • Immediately wipe spilled liquids with a clean cloth or paper towel.
  • Avoid food spills. This can go into different areas quickly and can harbor pathogens when not cleaned well.
  • Do not wash raw meats. The water used for washing meat may contain the pathogens from the raw ingredient and can spread all over the kitchen.


How to avoid cross contamination when cooking?

When cooking, cross contamination can still occur. Especially when target internal temperatures are not reached, the objective of cooking foods may not be entirely effective in preventing food poisoning. Follow these steps to avoid contaminating foods being cooked:

  • Do not mix an old batch into a new one. This operation will introduce contamination and can spread and spoil your foods.
  • Use only clean utensils to stir and taste foods being cooked.
  • Properly wash cooking equipment and cookware before and after proper cooking.
  • Do not use a single spoon to taste foods in intervals.
  • Thoroughly cook foods to the correct temperature. Use a food thermometer to determine the temperature of the food.


How to avoid cross contamination while cleaning?

Cleaning agents can contaminate foods when they are not rinsed well. Additionally, they can spill into foods being prepared when not properly stored. Chemical contamination due to cleaning agents can cause significant health problems to consumers. They can cause burning, food poisoning, and other serious issues when consumed.

To prevent cross contamination while cleaning, food service workers must:

  • Clean food contact surfaces before and after service.
  • Use only the recommended concentration of cleaning agents.
  • Wash down and wipe cleaned areas to remove residues from cleaning.
  • Color code towels and cloths used for cleaning.
  • Clean towels for wiping using a washing machine and mild detergent.
  • Do not use a loose cloth to clean the kitchen. Scraps of the cloth can get stuck on a piece of equipment and get mixed into the dish being prepared. 


How to avoid cross contamination when refrigerating food?

As mentioned, foods can get contaminated even if they are just sitting inside a refrigerator. This can occur by improperly stacking them and mixing raw with cooked ingredients. Follow these pointers to avoid causing cross contamination:

  • Group alike foods together (e.g. ready-to-eat, minimally processed, raw, etc.)
  • Maintain a consistent level of refrigerator temperature.
  • As much as possible, place raw meats inside clean containers for food storage.
  • Place ready-to-eat foods on the top-most shelf and the raw meats and leftovers at the bottom. 


How to avoid cross contamination when serving food?

The risk of cross contamination does not end when the food is cooked. Products can still become cross contaminated even when served. Precautions and correct procedures for serving are required.

  • Wash hands before serving food and after going to the bathroom.
  • Use different serving spoons and separate plates for each dish.
  • Cover foods when being traveled from the kitchen to the service area.
  • Keep foods away from the temperature danger zone before service.
  • Keep cooked food away from raw ingredients.


Avoiding cross contamination of allergens

Common food allergens are recognized as hazards for consumers with food allergies. They can significantly cause health problems to vulnerable groups of people which can sometimes be life-threatening. Allergens can travel from one source to another through their dust particles or cross contamination. Avoid contaminating other dishes with allergens by following these pointers:

  • If possible, prepare foods with allergic food ingredients in a separate area. 
  • Only use utensils dedicated for preparing foods with allergens.
  • Store and label allergens in the kitchen properly.
  • Avoid using the same oil for cooking foods with allergens and those without.
  • Use a food allergen chart and allergen warning to inform food handlers and consumers alike about the risks of allergen cross contamination.


What is the best way to avoid cross contamination?

The best way to avoid cross contamination is to implement a comprehensive food safety management system (FSMS). This program includes all known food safety practices that contribute to avoiding cross contamination. Food hygiene and safety are all part of an FSMS and keeping them always monitored and followed as well. An effective FSMS is one that covers all monitoring procedures for your daily operations in your food business.

With an FSMS, food safety managers and business owners are assured that cross contamination is well-controlled. All the more when your FSMS makes operations easier and more efficient for you. At FoodDocs, this is what our digital FSMS does. Not only does it remind you of every food safety task that needs to be done in a day, but it also automates filling out digital monitoring forms. These features save your team the time you can use to focus on improving your services. 


FoodDocs food safety system-1


The side effects of cross contamination

Cross contamination has a serious consequence on public health and the status of your food business. It can spread illnesses that can manifest through diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and nausea. In other cases, cross contamination of physical hazards can cause injuries such as wounds, scratches, and even injury. 

More serious cases of cross contamination can lead to hospitalization, or worse, death. These side effects can be addressed by properly identifying the source of the contamination and administering the proper health care to affected consumers. Groups that belong to the high-risk population such as pregnant women, children below 5 years old, and the elderly are more likely to become severely affected by the effects of cross contamination.


Here are a few questions and quick answers to help you understand more about how do you avoid cross contamination:

  • What can you do to avoid cross contamination in food?

Cross contamination can be avoided through proper and strict food safety practices such as washing hands, separating raw and cooked foods, and regularly cleaning the kitchen area and food contact surfaces.

  • How can you avoid cross contamination with ready-to-eat?

During storage, keep ready-to-eat foods away from raw materials. This type of food does not need any further processing and will be immediately consumed once served. As such, there would be no other kill step to remove the contamination.

  •  How do you avoid cross contamination using a different utensil with each tasting?

By using separate tools such as spoons in between tasting, you can minimize the risk of cross contamination by avoiding the introduction of pathogens from a food handler's mouth and hands to the food being cooked.

  • What are four tips for avoiding cross contamination?

To avoid cross contamination, remember to (1) wash your hands regularly, (2) separate cooked foods from raw materials, (3) clean food contact surfaces, and (4) use different utensils when preparing food.

  • What should you do to avoid cross contamination when prepping produce?

There are several things that you can do to avoid cross contamination during preparation. Some of the most effective operations include practicing food hygiene such as washing hands with soap, separating foods during storage depending on their categories, and using separate tools to prepare foods. 


Monitor and control the sources of cross contamination with digital FSMS

To ensure that cross contamination is always controlled, constant monitoring of the food safety practices in place must be always practiced. Monitoring forms and procedures must be established as proof of proper food safety control. Simple procedures such as proper storage and food preparation, when done correctly and consistently can prevent cross contamination.

This is the case for any food business. Food managers would have to monitor whether these operations are properly fulfilled or if non-compliance is present. FoodDocs has created an efficient way to do these monitoring tasks in the most efficient way possible. With our digital Food Safety Management System, food safety tasks will be done without fail as food handlers will be constantly reminded when to do them and be given smart instructions in case of noncompliance. Shifting to our digital platform would only take an average of 15 minutes. You can do it even while in line at the grocery store.

Our system's process starts by answering a few basic questions about your food business. After this, our system will automatically generate a complete digital FSMS that is based on your daily operations. You can even customize the documents that we automatically create to further fit your operations. You can add unique tasks to your food business and create digital monitoring forms.


In addition to these features, our digital FSMS can provide you with these highlights:

Set your monitoring forms to auto-fill to save your employees' time. The logged information will be based on your previous data entries.

Never miss a task with our smart notification system. Using our mobile device, food handlers will receive a notification that will alert them of any food safety task that must be done on time.

Review all of your operations in one place and save up to 20% of your time from managing using a real-time dashboard. This feature will allow you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your business when it comes to food safety operations.

Access all documents from a single location with the dedicated cloud storage that you will get when you signup with us.


With our digital FSMS, you can stay compliant with the most significant food safety laws and regulations locally and internationally. Make sure that all sources of cross contamination are addressed and that the assigned food safety tasks to avoid the spread of foodborne illnesses are controlled. Signup now or try our free, 14-day trial to get a feel of how our system works.



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