Cross contamination is a serious issue that can lead to foodborne illnesses and other health risks if not addressed properly. It occurs when two or more different types of food come into contact with each other, allowing bacteria to spread from one food to another. To prevent cross contamination, it’s important to understand which storage practices can cause it and how to store foods safely.
Causes of Cross Contamination
Cross contamination can occur in a variety of ways. Some of the most common causes include improper temperature control, improper use of cleaning supplies, food not properly sealed or covered, and lack of proper sanitization. Let’s take a closer look at each of these causes.
Improper Temperature Control
Storing food at the wrong temperature can cause bacteria to grow quickly and easily spread to other foods. Bacteria thrive in temperatures between 40°F and 140°F (4°C and 60°C). Keeping food at or below this range will help prevent cross contamination.
Improper Use of Cleaning Supplies
Using contaminated cleaning supplies can also lead to cross contamination. For example, using a sponge that has been used for raw meat on a cutting board used for ready-to-eat food could spread bacteria from the raw meat to the ready-to-eat food. It’s important to always use separate cleaning supplies for raw and ready-to-eat foods.
Food Not Properly Sealed or Covered
If food isn’t properly sealed or covered, it can be exposed to contaminants in the air, such as bacteria, dust, and insects. This can lead to cross contamination if the food comes into contact with other foods. Be sure to store food in airtight containers or bags and cover it with lids or wrap.
Lack of Proper Sanitization
Sanitizing surfaces and utensils after they come into contact with raw food is essential to preventing cross contamination. If surfaces and utensils aren’t properly cleaned and sanitized, bacteria from the raw food can easily spread to other foods.
Tips for Storing Food Properly
To prevent cross contamination, it’s important to practice good food storage habits. Here are some tips to help keep your food safe:
Keep Food at Safe Temperatures
Always store food at temperatures below 40°F (4°C) and above 140°F (60°C). Refrigerate perishable food within two hours of cooking or purchasing, and freeze food that won’t be eaten within three days.
Use Appropriate Cleaning Supplies
Use separate cleaning supplies for raw and ready-to-eat foods. Also, be sure to clean and sanitize all surfaces and utensils after they come into contact with raw food.
Ensure Foods are Properly Sealed or Covered
Store food in airtight containers or bags and cover it with lids or wrap. This will help keep out contaminants and prevent cross contamination.
Always Practice Good Hygiene
It’s important to wash your hands before and after handling food, as well as after coming into contact with any surfaces or utensils that have come into contact with raw food.
Separate Raw and Ready-to-Eat Foods
Always store raw and ready-to-eat foods separately. This means keeping them in separate containers, and storing them in different areas of the refrigerator or freezer.
Cross contamination can lead to serious health risks if not prevented. To protect yourself and others, it’s important to understand which storage practices can cause it and how to store food properly. By following the tips outlined above, you can help ensure that your food is stored safely and free from cross contamination.