To maintain the best kitchen environment possible, it's crucial to follow food safety guidelines because cross-contamination can result in foodborne illnesses. Foods can become contaminated by bacteria and viruses from a variety of factors during the food preparation process. Learn about the best ways to prevent food cross-contamination and remove allergens in your commercial kitchen.

What Is Cross-Contamination?

Cross-contamination takes place when harmful bacteria is transferred from one food to another. The most common way of this occurring is when raw meat, seafood, or poultry makes contact with cooked food. Raw foods can easily contaminate other food items when chefs use their hands or unsanitized utensils to handle ingredients.

How Can I Prevent Cross-Contamination?

"How can I avoid cross-contamination?" is a question many chefs should ask themselves to ensure they're following food safety guidelines when preparing dishes. To guarantee every meal is free of dangerous bacteria, it's important to understand the different ways you can prevent cross-contamination in your kitchen.

Store Food Correctly

Believe it or not, cross-contamination can occur by the way you store food. It's important to correctly put away food in your commercial fridge because contaminants can easily spread from one food item to another. For example, ready-to-eat meals can be contaminated by raw meat if both products aren't stored properly. We've created a list to inform you of how every commercial kitchen should store food products. Here's how to store food safely in your kitchen:

  1. Always wrap or cover food and don't store ingredients in unsanitized containers or with cleaning materials.
  2. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from ready-to-eat food.
  3. Store ready-to-eat food on the top shelf to prevent juices from raw food dripping onto premade food.
  4. Store raw food products on the bottom shelf so they can't make contact with other foods.

Properly Prepare Meals

Whenever you're about to prepare a meal, ensure that countertops, cutting boards, kitchen tools, and other equipment are thoroughly sanitized. Failing to properly clean kitchen equipment will result in contaminated food items. For instance, if you place raw meat on a plate but don't sanitize the plate after use, bacteria from the meat will be transferred to foods placed on the plate.

In order to safely prepare meals, a great place to start is by using different cutting boards for each type of ingredient. For example, cutting fruits and vegetables on the same board as raw seafood quickly becomes a safety hazard and causes food to be contaminated. It's highly recommended to use color-coded cutting boards when preparing meals. It provides chefs with a simple way to distinguish the difference between each cutting board and prevents cross-contamination. Each colored board is used for specific food products:

  • Green: fruits and vegetables
  • White: bakery and dairy products
  • Purple: allergen-free products
  • Brown: cooked meat
  • Red: raw meat
  • Yellow: raw poultry
  • Blue: raw seafood

Properly Handle Prepared Meals

You may have followed all the food safety guidelines to prevent cross-contamination when preparing meals but that just isn't enough. Bacteria can still be transferred to prepared meals if they aren't handled properly. For instance, if chefs plate meals using the same cooking tools designated for different food items, viruses can quickly spread. This makes it crucial to use clean utensils when handling food in the kitchen.

Waitstaff and bartenders serve customers their orders and can also be the reason for cross-contamination in your establishment. This makes it crucial for your entire staff to know the food safety guidelines for handling food and serving customers. For example, servers should use ice scoops rather than their bare hands when preparing drinks and not hold glassware by the rim when serving beverages.

Practice Good Personal Hygiene Habits

If employees don't maintain proper hygiene, foods can easily become filled with bacteria. One of the most common hygiene practices in every kitchen is for employees to wash their hands after handling raw food products and using the restroom. However, there are a number of other personal hygiene rules that need to be followed to prevent cross-contamination:

  • Wear clean clothes, hairnets, beard nets, and aprons
  • Do not wear jewelry while handling food
  • Use disposable gloves and change them when handling new food items
  • Do not work if you are sick
  • Cover wounds when working in the kitchen at all times

How To Clean Kitchen Equipment To Remove Allergens

There are a number of foods, like milk, peanuts, or fish, that may cause guests to have an allergic reaction if the equipment used to prepare dishes isn't cleaned properly. To remove allergens and prevent cross-contamination, kitchen employees need to consistently clean kitchen equipment.

When washing dishes by hand, dish soap and water removes food allergens. However, a dishcloth or sponge that comes into contact with allergens is more than likely filled with bacteria and therefore shouldn't be used to clean allergen-free dishes. When washing dishes, consider using a number of sponges or dishcloths. For instance, color code or label sponges that can be used to clean dishes free of allergens and designate other sponges that can be used for dishes with certain allergens.

Furthermore, it's necessary to frequently clean kitchen countertops because they may have food allergens. When cleaning countertops, wiping down surfaces with soapy water and a towel isn't enough. It's important to rinse countertops with fresh water and sanitize them with disinfecting towels or wipes. This ensures they are free of food allergens to avoid cross-contamination.

Keeping Your Kitchen Clean Is Key

By not properly storing ingredients, preparing meals, or cleaning kitchen equipment, foods can get contaminated and result in foodborne illnesses. This makes it essential to practice sanitary habits throughout the food preparation process. By implementing these food safety guidelines in your establishment, your business will prevent cross-contamination and be free of food allergens.