Contamination and Cross-contamination

What is contamination?

The presence of substances and conditions in food that can be harmful to humans.

What is cross-contamination?

The transfer of biological, physical or chemical contaminants to food products from raw foods, food handlers, and food processing equipment.

The type of cross-contamination most frequently implicated in food-borne illness occurs when pathogenic bacteria or viruses are transferred to ready-to-eat foods. Cross-contamination is one of the major causes of food poisoning.


How does cross-contamination happen?

  • Storing raw and ready- to-eat food together
  • Not washing hands after touching raw food
  • Using the same chopping board or knife for raw and ready-to-eat food without proper cleaning
  • Handling raw product, then handling cooked product
  • Touching unclean cooler door handle, then handling product
  • Shovel used to handle floor waste, also used to handle product

Tips to minimize cross-contamination

  • Don’t prepare food when you are sick
  • Wash your hands
  • Separate ready-to-eat foods from raw foods
  • Separate different types of raw foods
  • Clean and sanitize/disinfect between different types of food.
  • Use labels and color coding in segregating raw materials and utensils
  • Food handling or processing areas and equipment adequately cleaned and sanitized.
  • Keep food in clean, covered containers separate from chemicals.
  • Use different (or properly cleaned and sanitized) surfaces and utensils for raw and ready-to-eat food.
  • Adequate separation of raw and cooked or ready-to-eat product during receiving, processing, storage and shipping.
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