CONTACT's Clarify The Confusing: Cross-contamination

May. 4, 2023

CONTACT Cross-Contamination VideoWhat does “cross-contamination” mean? We hear it all the time, but it can be confusing! The CONTACT Project Team with Camryn Cook from Virginia Tech is here to #ClarifyTheConfusing about what cross-contamination is and what you can do about it! Watch the video here:

Cross-contamination occurs when a previously uncontaminated surface or food becomes contaminated when it comes into contact with another contaminated item, so when the contamination on one surface crosses over to another. This can happen a lot with fresh produce safety in the dump tank, on the packing line, or even by a worker's hands. Anywhere from production to distribution to household handling/preparation. 

For example, on a vegetable food processing line, a few contaminated produce units entering the processing line can result in several contaminated batches of the final product. For this reason, outbreaks associated with fresh produce can be larger than those attributed to other food because of the many points or sources of cross-contamination within a supply chain (the system used for the production of a product from raw materials to the delivery of a final product to the final consumer). This can result in the increasing effect of cross-contamination on the prevalence levels of pathogens within the different stages of the fresh-produce supply chain (e.g. primary production, postharvest processing, produce preparation, handling or storage) (Possas and Pérez-Rodríguez, 2023).  

Forklift carries crates of fruit. Many apples in container. Adobe Stock Photo #285316275

You can reduce the risk of cross-contamination by adding a sanitizer to your wash water or by sanitizing your equipment and washing your hands.


CONTACT is a cross-institutional collaboration project that seeks to provide a systems-based decision-support framework to evaluate measures for controlling pathogens on produce that will support an integrated view and decision-making roadmap for stakeholders. CONTACT looks at the scientific challenges and cost-effective management of risks associated with the implementation of produce safety regulations. Look out for more informational videos on food safety and produce safety science by the CONTACT team!


Additional Resource:

Arícia Possas, Fernando Pérez-Rodríguez, New insights into cross-contamination of fresh-produce, Current Opinion in Food Science, Volume 49, 2023, 100954, ISSN 2214-7993,