Cross-contamination of food can cause several serious health risks, including food poisoning and allergen exposure. Cross-contamination is when microorganisms and bacteria are unintentionally passed from one food to another and this cross-contact is commonly caused by unwashed hands, boards, utensils and knives. Food can become contaminated before preparation, during, or after. Therefore, teaching staff how to handle food, from the moment it arrives at your facility, will help to prevent cross-contamination.
Your kitchen staff will need to know how to properly store and handle food. This, in turn, will save your business- in time and money- that could end up wasted on food that’s been improperly handled by staff. There are many tips you can follow to ensure a safe and sanitary food processing facility.
With regards to storing food, it is important to keep raw meats and dairy products in securely sealed or vacuum-packaged containers, to prevent contact with other foods. It is recommended that the food is stored- from top to bottom- in the following order: ready-food on top, followed by seafood, cuts of beef and pork, ground meat and fish, then ground poultry. Where possible (and if budgets and facility storage allow,) it is a good idea to keep raw meat and dairy items in a separate refrigerator to your fruit, vegetables and ready-to-eat produce.
Within your food-processing plant, surfaces should be kept clean and sanitisation should take place between uses. Failing to do so heightens the risk of cross-contamination greatly. In addition to this, if food is prepared or cut by hand, colour-coded cutting boards and/or colour-coded knives are advised to differentiate between supplies and keep them separate.
If it is necessary for your staff to handle food produce, they should be trained to avoid using the same utensils on different food items. Also, food should generally be manoeuvred using utensils, scoops or prongs- as opposed to bare hands. If food does need to be touched, it will often be best practice to use gloves.
In addition to colour-coded equipment, there are other products that will help to prevent cross-contamination in your food processing plant. Day of the week and product labels are another system kitchens employ in order to clearly label food items. This means staff know what is stored and when it will need to be consumed by.
When it comes to cooking food in a food processing facility, using probe thermometers and checking temperatures are common practise. However, this means that probe wipes are essential to sterilize these small pieces of equipment- and staff need to be trained to do this after every use. Alternatively, disposable food thermometers will further help to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
Finally, food processing plants must consider outside contaminants that might be carried on the body or clothing of staff. Again, it should be common practice for kitchen staff to wear appropriate aprons and headwear and trained to dress appropriately in this context. Washing hands is also vital. All these tips will ensure the best protection to prevent cross-contamination at your food processing facility.