Health and safety in any food service business is a big deal! When handling food or overseeing food preparation, you have a responsibility to ensure food coming out of the kitchen is safe for customers to eat.
Cross-contamination is the main reason for food-borne illness outbreaks. Even if meat has been cooked correctly, meals can still become contaminated with pathogens if cross-contamination isn’t avoided in the preparation process.
Here are our top tips to avoid cross-contamination in a commercial kitchen and keep your staff and customers safe and happy.
The Importance of Food Safety
Food safety and high levels of hygiene are vital for any commercial kitchen. Working spaces need to maintain an excellent standard of cleanliness to reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses which can lead to food-borne illnesses.
What is Cross-Contamination?
Cross-contamination is the spread of harmful bacteria around your kitchen – from food to surfaces, hands and equipment and foods to other foods. It can be a major cause of food poisoning originating from using a chopping board to prepare raw chicken and then using the same board for ready-to-eat food.
The Duties of Commercial Kitchens
Any business that handles food has a responsibility for the safety of its staff and customers. In order to comply with food safety laws, businesses are required to follow food hygiene practices and even more so during a pandemic! It’s the food business’ responsibility to prevent any kitchen equipment or other items that come into contact with food from transferring anything to the food itself and vice versa.
A HACCP System requires that potential hazards are identified and controlled at specific points in the process. Any company involved in the manufacturing, processing or handling of food products can use HACCP to minimise or eliminate food safety hazards in their products.
When you implement a HACCP programme, regularly clean your kitchen and educate your employees on good food handling practices, you’ll greatly reduce the risk of unsafe food conditions in your kitchen.
Rules Commercial Kitchen Staff Must Follow;
There are a number of ways to reduce the risk of cross-contamination in your commercial kitchen. These are as follows;
- Wear clean clothes – aprons should also be worn, especially when handling unwrapped foods.
- Remove jewellery and watches – bacteria can be caught in the nooks of watches or jewellery.
- Tie hair back, or wear a hairnet
- Wash your hands regularly. You must always wash your hands before handling food, and especially after handling raw meat and fish. Dry your hands using paper towels – never by wiping them on yourself.
- Replace damaged utensils and those which are showing signs of wear and tear. Bacteria can hide away in the crevices and knife grooves of chopping boards.
- Regularly clean surfaces throughout the day and always after preparing food- ensure you use both an antibacterial spray and hot soapy water when cleaning surfaces and equipment.
- Store clean equipment correctly. Clean dishes and utensils, once cool, should be stored on clean shelves away from floor level.
- Use different cleaning materials, including cloths, sponges and mops in areas where ready-to-eat foods are stored, handled and prepared.
- Avoid towel drying dishes as this can cause contamination from towels.
How to Prevent Cross-Contamination
Storing Foods Effectively
Correct refrigeration procedures are essential when handling and storing food. Some simple steps to follow are;
- Place raw meat, poultry and seafood on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator in containers or sealed plastic bags. This prevents any meat juices from dripping onto and contaminating other food.
- Always keep ready-to-eat and cooked food separate from raw food.
- Refrigerate eggs as soon as possible to increase their longevity. You should also keep eggs in their original container to reduce the risk of them smashing.
- Ensure your fridge is at the correct temperature. The law states that, in catering environments, all refrigerators and cold storage rooms must operate at 8°C or below.
- It is good practice to set refrigerator temperatures between 1°C and 4°C.
- Don’t place hot foods in the fridge, as this raises the overall temperature.
Preparing Food Hygienically
Organising your kitchen and equipment efficiently when preparing food will reduce the risk of cross-contamination. You should;
- Use colour-coded cutting boards for different food groups, particularly raw foods and ready-to-eat foods.
- Avoid washing raw food – the water could splash onto nearby surfaces and spread harmful bacteria.
- Always wash fruit and vegetables, regardless of if you plan to peel them. The soil and water in which fruit and vegetables grow can carry harmful bacteria and parasites, which sit on the food surface.
- Use different knives, plates and cooking utensils for different types of food. Ensure you cut raw chicken and vegetables with different knives.
- After use, you must immediately wash utensils and crockery you use for raw meat, poultry, and raw fish. This helps to minimise the risk of their juices contaminating other foods and surfaces.