Clean Surfaces and Cross Contamination – Are You at Risk?

BY Jaime Foster | May 7, 2014

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Most of us know that eating raw meat can make you sick, however did you know how you handle your food can also make you sick? By not properly handling the foods you prepare, you can put you and your family at risk for foodborne illness.

Cross contamination can occur when harmful bacteria are passed from one person, place or object to another. Bacteria from the juices of raw meat or unclean surfaces can transfer onto cooked or ready-to-eat foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Cross contamination can also occur when using unwashed cutting boards, preparing foods on unwashed countertops and sinks, re-using unclean kitchen tools, and through unwashed hands or improper glove usage.

Cleaning & Sanitizing the Kitchen – Using inexpensive household food-safe products

Cross contamination plays an important role in the transfer of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that poultry is the number one cause of foodborne illness related deaths. Foodborne illnesses resulting from chicken most often is caused by raw chicken preparation through cross contamination from raw poultry to ready to eat foods [reference].

Preventing cross contamination requires good food safety habits, such as regularly cleaning and sanitizing countertops and sinks, washing hands frequently, and properly cleaning cutting boards, kitchen tools, and utensils. Separating raw and ready to eat foods in your shopping cart, shopping bags and in the refrigerator also reduces the risk of cross contamination. Additionally, a separate plate for raw meat and cooked meat should always be used.

Cleaning and sanitizing are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but what is the difference? Cleaning removes dirt from food preparation surfaces in the kitchen (counters, cutting boards, dishes, knives, utensils, pots and pans). Sanitizing reduces germs to a safe level so illness is unlikely to occur. The most commonly known germs causing illness include Campylobacter, Salmonella and Norovirus. Cleaning and sanitizing countertops, sinks, cutting boards, and other kitchen tools and utensils after each use can reduce the risk of cross contamination in your kitchen. Want to know more about how to effectively clean and sanitize your kitchen? Click here

A large number of foodborne illnesses could be prevented if hands were washed while handling and preparing food. Find out why. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 2.2 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, however, educating consumers to wash their hands can reduce the number of people who get sick from diarrhea by an estimated 31%. Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before handling food, between handling raw and ready to eat foods, and after using the restroom, changing a diaper, handling garbage or touching your pet. Click here to view more about hand washing.

Hand washing with soap and water is always best, however if soap and water are not available, an alcohol based hand sanitizer can be used. Click here for more information about hand sanitizers.

While washing hands, food contact surfaces and kitchen utensils is important, you should not wash your meat and poultry. Washing meat and poultry can spread harmful bacteria to your sink, countertops, and other parts of your kitchen.

Read more about the The Do’s and Don’ts of Sponge Safety.

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