It would behoove me not to address this at some point, so I thought today was as good as any to talk about one of the primary safety issues ALL of us have to deal with in an average kitchen...cross-contamination. While it's not an exciting thing to discuss, it's VERY important for you and your family's health and welfare.
According to the experts, cross-contamination is the physical movement or transfer of harmful bacteria from one person, object or place to another. Preventing cross-contamination is a key factor in preventing foodborn illness. Cross-contamination is the contamination of a food product from another source. There are three main ways cross-contamination can occur: food to food, people to food, and equipment to food.
Food can become contaminated by bacteria from other foods. This type of cross-contamination is especially dangerous if raw foods come into contact with cooked foods. Here are some examples of food-to-food cross-contamination:
- In a refrigerator, meat drippings from raw meat stored on a top shelf might drip onto cooked vegetables placed on lower shelf.
- Raw chicken placed on a grill touching a steak that is being cooked.
People can also be a source of cross-contamination to foods. Some examples are:
- Handling foods after using the toilet without first properly washing hands.
- Touching raw meats and then preparing vegetables without washing hands between tasks.
- Using an apron to wipe hands between handling different foods, or wiping a counter with a towel and then using it to dry hands.
Contamination can also be passed from kitchen equipment and utensils to food. This type of contamination occurs because the equipment or utensils were not properly cleaned and sanitized between each use. Some examples are:
- Using unclean equipment, such as slicers, can openers, and utensils, to prepare food.
- Using a cutting board and the same knife when cutting different types of foods, such as cutting raw chicken followed by salad preparation.
- Storing a cooked product, such as a sauce, in an unsanitized container that previously stored raw meat.
So, how do you prevent this from happening? Well, there are some simple rules to follow which will help tremendously in preventing cross-contamination:
When Shopping: Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in your grocery-shopping cart. Place these foods in plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods. It is also best to separate these foods from other foods at check out and in your grocery bags.
When Preparing Food: Wash hands and surfaces often. Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops. To prevent this:
- Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers; or handling pets.
- Use hot, soapy water and paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills. Wash cloths often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
- Wash cutting boards, dishes, and counter tops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.
- A solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water may be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils. ALWAYS allow the solution to air dry...rinsing eliminates the sanitizing effect, and doesn't help.
When Refrigerating Food:
- Place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods. Raw juices often contain harmful bacteria.
- Store eggs in their original carton and refrigerate as soon as possible.
When Serving Food:
When Storing Leftovers:
- Always use a clean cutting board.
- If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
- Once cutting boards become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, you should replace them.
- Always marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
- Sauce that is used to marinate raw meat, poultry, or seafood should not be used on cooked foods, unless it is boiled just before using.
When Serving Food:
- Always use a clean plate.
- Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food.
When Storing Leftovers:
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours or sooner in clean, shallow, covered containers to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying.
With a little common sense, keeping your family healthy is an easy habit to get into. In today's kitchen, it's the SMART way to cook!! ENJOY!!