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What is Cross Contamination?

Last updated on 20th December 2023

Cross contamination is the transfer of bacteria from contaminated foods (usually raw) to ready to eat foods by either direct or indirect contact. This often happens through things like hands not being washed between raw and cooked food preparation, or using the same equipment or work surfaces for raw and high-risk food.

According to the World Health Organization 1 in 10 people fall ill every year from eating contaminated foods.

What can cross contamination lead to?

Cross contamination can lead to food poisoning. Food poisoning symptoms usually show up hours or a couple of days after you have eaten some contaminated foods.

The main symptoms of food poisoning are sickness and diarrhoea, feeling generally unwell and stomach cramps, usually a persons symptoms clear up within a few days, but this isn’t always the case and it can turn into something more serious.

Hand washing with hot water to prevent cross contamination

How to reduce the risk of cross contamination

There are many ways to reduce the risks of cross contamination and thorough training should be given to people working in a kitchen environment. It is important not to wash meats like chicken before you cook them, people think that washing the raw chicken helps to get rid of harmful germs, however this isn’t the case. Only proper cooking will kill the germs. If you wash chicken under the tap it increases the risk of the germs splashing on to utensils and worktops. You may not have realised this and then go to use them utensils that have the bacteria on them from the chicken and that is how cross contamination can happen.

Store raw meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge, this means that if they were to leak some of the juice that has harmful bacteria in it won’t be transferred to ready to eat foods. This helps to reduce the risk of cross contamination and the risk of food poisoning.

Always wash your hands with hot soapy water on a regular basis, especially after you have handled raw meat and fish. It is also important to wash up any utensils or chopping boards that you have used to cut raw meats or fish on. This also helps to reduce the risk of cross contamination.

Make sure to remove all jewellery before preparing food, the only thing that people that are working with food can wear is a wedding band. This is because jewellery is a easy way for bacteria to be collected and it is very easy to spread it.

The 6 P’s

The 6 P’s all refer to different types of hazards which are common in businesses. They can all pose a risk of contamination:

  • People – fingernails, hairs, bacteria, jewellery, plasters
  • Packaging – string, paper, wood chips, staples
  • Products – stones, bones, shell
  • Pests – dead bodies, droppings, urine, fur, feathers
  • Premises – flaking paint, dust, dirt, glass
  • Plant – (Equipment and Machinery) – screws, bolts, pieces of broken equipment such as metal

The 6 P’s are an easy way to remember the different food hazards that might need to be controlled.

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About the author

Eve Johnson

Eve Johnson

Eve has worked at CPD from the start, she organises the course and blog production, as well as supporting students with any problems they may have and helping them choose the correct courses. Eve is also studying for her Business Administration Level 3 qualification. Outside of work Eve likes to buy anything with flamingos on it, catching up with friends, spending time with her family and occasionally going to the gym!

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