Preventing cross-contamination is one step to help eliminate food- borne illness. Cross-contamination of food is a common factor in the cause of foodborne illness. Foods can become contaminated by microorganisms (bacteria and viruses) from many different sources during the food preparation and storage process.

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
  • 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 to Food

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.

Equipment to Food Contamination

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.

Steps to Prevent Cross-Contamination

  • Wash your hands thoroughly between handling different foods or after using the toilet.
  • Wash and sanitize all equipment and utensils that come in contact with food.
  • Avoid touching your face, skin, and hair or wiping your hands on cleaning cloths.
  • Store foods properly by separating washed or prepared foods from unwashed or raw foods.
  • Try preparing each type of food at different times, and then clean and sanitize food contact surfaces between each task