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Tips to Avoid Cross-Contamination in Your Kitchen


Tips to Avoid Cross-Contamination in Your Kitchen

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 48 million Americans get sick from a foodborne illness each year, and almost 128,000 are hospitalized annually. With a rate that high, it’s not only imperative that you follow the guidelines of keeping your workspace neat, organized, and food safe, it’s also required by law. Here are a few rules-of-thumb to get you started.

  1. Have all employees properly wash their hands. As we’ve recently discussed, a recent study from Michigan State reported that only 5 percent of their participants properly washed their hands long enough to kill germ-causing bacteria. That’s astonishingly low. So some rules of thumb here are to wash your hands for 15-20 seconds. Don’t wash your hands in a sink with standing water, and if possible, wash with warm or hot water. In the end, dry off with a disposable paper towel rather than a rag or dish towel.
  2. Use separate sets of equipment for different tasks. For example, use one set of knives, cutting boards, storage containers and equipment for vegetables, and another for raw meats, another for raw poultry -- never switch the two. Keeping tabs on which sets of equipment go to which food type will greatly decrease the chances of your food being exposed to unwarranted bacteria and other potential foodborne illnesses.
  3. Keep an eye on storage temperatures & cooking temperatures. As previously discussed on the Responsible Training blog, these three are paramount to keep in mind when handling food in the kitchen. For example, ground meats, poultry, etc. will need to be cooked at 165 degrees Fahrenheit; pork, ham and seafood will need to be cooked at 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Likewise, you’ll need to keep your freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit to properly and safely store frozen foods, however, frozen foods will last a little longer between -10 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Keep a tabulated inventory of all expiration dates. As far as expiration dates are concerned, the only items that need to list dates (as required by U.S. federal law) are baby foods and baby formulas. Any additional expiration dates are voluntarily listed by the packaging company. However, they’re still important to keep in mind, whether they’re a ‘sell by’ date, a ‘use by’ date, or a ‘packaged on’ date. Keeping a detailed inventory of fresh foods will keep your staff and your patrons safe.
  5. Clean, clean, clean. Place cleaned vegetables and produce into new, clean containers, rather than the original ones they came from. Thoroughly wash all of your knives, cutting boards and other equipment between each use, even if they’re used for the same designated product. Always, always, always wash all items through hot water for an extended period of time to ensure bacteria has been thoroughly killed.

This is just a small sample of the action items you’ll need to implement in order to pass regular food inspection standards, but they’re important to keep top-of-mind nonetheless. Need an update on your food handler or food manager certificate? Get certified today so that you, too, can keep your kitchen above and beyond standard protocol.