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Prevent Cross-Contamination: Prevent Foodborne Illness

Cross-contamination occurs when germs are passed from one place to another. Cross-contamination is one way to spread foodborne germs. Food establishment operators must be aware of the causes of cross-contamination during food preparation and take steps to train employees to recognize the importance of preventing crosscontamination.

Keeping equipment clean and safe from cross-contamination is a never-ending challenge in food establishments. Here are some helpful hints and questions to ask yourself:

  • Use a sanitizer solution to wipe down equipment surfaces during use.
  • Use a test kit to make sure the concentration of sanitizer is at the correct level.
  • Do employees know that they should be wiping down prep tables with a sanitizer solution throughout the day?
  • Do not use the same cutting board or prep table surface for preparing raw chicken and vegetables. Raw chicken can easily contaminate a cutting board or prep surface. Use two separate cutting boards when preparing poultry, meat or fish, and raw vegetables. If there is only one cutting board, wash and sanitize that cutting board between uses.
  • The actions of a food handler can also lead to cross-contamination. When handling raw poultry, meat, fish or shellfish, employees should wear single-use gloves. Single-use gloves are used for a single activity such as cutting raw chicken. When an employee finishes the job requiring single-use gloves, the gloves must be discarded and new gloves used for the next food handling task. Wash hands when changing gloves!

Potentially hazardous foods-meat, poultry, seafood, shellfish-may contain germs such as E. coli or Salmonella. Improper storage of these items may lead to juices from one raw food dripping onto other raw or ready-to-eat foods in the refrigerator.

A good storage method is to store foods from top to bottom by their cook temperature. The higher the cook temperature, the lower the food should be stored in the refrigerator:

  1. Cooked left-overs should be stored on the top shelf;
  2. Raw foods such as produce should be stored below the leftovers;
  3. Next would be fish and pork;
  4. On the fourth shelf would be ground beef; and
  5. Always on the bottom shelf is the poultry.
Storing food properly is important for a number of reasons. Consider this example: Chicken is cooked at the highest cook temperature (165°F) in order to kill Salmonella which may be in the chicken. If the chicken was stored above the fish and juices dripped on the fish, someone could become ill because fish is cooked to 145°F, which is not the temperature that kills Salmonella . So remember, store poultry on the bottom shelf to prevent cross-contamination from juice drippings. If space is limited, store the raw foods in closed containers to prevent dripping juices. A storage chart with an example of how to store foods properly in a commercial refrigerator is available in multiple languages from the area Health Department representative or online at

Read more in the full edition of the January 2017 newsletter PDF icon | español PDF icon

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Prevent Cross-Contamination: Prevent Foodborne Illness
(January 2013)
Warm Weather is Coming! (April 2013)
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