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Avoiding Cross Contamination

It is widely known that restaurants and other establishments that sell food have criteria they must adhere to, and are regularly subject to unexpected inspections from the local health department.

Health Department

Food establishments must pass that inspection, which involves all areas of the kitchen including walk-in refrigerators and freezers, dishwashers, rags used to clean the kitchen, etc. They must pass the inspection or be subject to corrective measures with a follow-up inspection. In addition, the health department publishes inspection reports online to allow consumers to check out their eating establishments to see how they fared in the inspection. The info also includes the details of the inspection, any corrective measures needed, and a follow-up re-inspection to see that the needed changes have been addressed.

What is Cross Contamination?

Cross contamination is what its name implies – passing a harmful substance from one place to another where it can do harm. One example is our restaurant where any number of dangerous bacteria can spread and potentially cause food poisoning or other ill effects. “Cross contamination can be transferred to food by hands, food-contact surfaces, sponges, cloth towels and utensils that touch raw food, are not cleaned, and then touch ready-to-eat foods.”

Another example is your doctor’s office, a hospital, or other medical facilities. Just like in the restaurant example, there are many chances for cross contamination in a medical facility.

Avoiding Cross Contamination

What are the Ill Effects?

“The passing of bacteria, microorganisms, or other harmful substances indirectly from one patient to another through improper or unsterile equipment, procedures, or products,” applies to the action or actions of medical personnel when dealing with instruments such as re-using needles, failing to properly wash hands when needed, failure to wear gloves, or change gloves when needed in a medical setting, for example. Proper hand washing, utilization, changing and disposal of gloves are also critical in a food establishment. Cross contamination in a food setting can cause food poisoning, aka a foodborne illness, and, in a medical situation, there is a very real danger of passing illnesses from one patient to another. Both of these can be fatal. Naturally when we think of foodborne illnesses, we do think of an eatery, but failure to control cross contamination in the home can spread or cause a foodborne illness also.

How to Control Cross Contamination?

One important safety measure is to store raw meat on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator where any blood or juices cannot drip onto other food to prevent bacteria from raw meat contaminating other foods.

There are safety measures, used in restaurants that can translate into the home to keep your family safe from the effects of cross contamination. When you are food shopping and purchase raw meats, such as chicken or ground beef, place the package into another plastic bag provided at the meat counter; separate theses packages at checkout so they can be bagged separately from other food items.

Designate one cutting board for meat, and another for fresh produce. Wash thoroughly and spray with bleach water after using to kill any bacteria left behind. Once the board develops grooves that cannot be properly cleaned, replace it. Always rinse fresh vegetables and fruit and remove the outermost leaves of lettuce and cabbage.  Never put cooked meat on a plate or cutting board that was used to cut raw meat.

Food safety is basically common sense but seeking to increase your knowledge of food safety is a good idea. Some local health departments conduct classes in food safety for a small fee. Wouldn’t you like to be food safety certified?

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