What is Cross Contamination in Food? Image

Cross contamination in food is a major way for bacteria to spread and multiply. It occurs when the juices or germs from other foods touch cooked foods. Cross contamination can result in food poisoning, which can be unpleasant for those who fall ill due to this. However, following some simple and easy steps, you can avoid cross contamination of foods, keeping consumers safe from food poisoning.

How does cross contamination occur?

Cross contamination occurs when pathogens from another object or piece of food, come into contact with another piece of food. This includes:

  • Raw food juices dripping onto other food either in the fridge, in your shopping trolley or on the counter.
  • Dirty clothes in the kitchen carry pathogens and germs which transfer onto food.
  • Utensils which have been used to handle raw meat and are then used to handle other food will transfer pathogens between the foods.
  • Chopping boards used for raw meat and then seafood will transfer germs and pathogens between food which should be kept separate.

How to avoid cross contamination

1) Separate your foods

Even when you are putting food into your supermarket shopping trolley, separate your foods. If you have bought raw meat, ensure it is wrapped in a plastic bag and is in a separate part of your trolley to your other food.

Separate frozen food from raw meat, eggs and your cooked food.

2) Food storage

After returning home from your supermarket shop, ensure the foods which need to be refrigerated or frozen are put away straight away. Use separate compartments of the fridge or freezer for different foods. Put your wrapped-up raw meat at the bottom of the fridge, away from your other food, to ensure that the juices can't drip onto other food.

Put your vegetables in draws but ensure they are also wrapped up, to ensure germs from the draws can't contaminate the vegetables.

What is Cross Contamination in Food?

3) Cooking

Ensure your hands are thoroughly clean, your clothes are clean, hair is tied back and you have gloves on if you are handling food. Ensure you thoroughly wash your hands between handling different foods, which must be kept separate.

Ensure the utensils which you use are clean and used for separate types of food, don't use the same utensils for raw meat and also for your cooked food.

Ensure the chopping boards which you use to prepare food are different for cooked food, raw meat, seafood and vegetables.

Consequences of cross contamination

Cross contamination of food can result in food poisoning, making an individual feel considerably poorly. Food poisoning doesn't tend to be overly serious, although unpleasant for those experiencing it.

Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting and Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach Cramps
  • High Temperature
  • Body Aches
  • Body Chills

Usually, food poisoning symptoms will clear up after a week, but it is important to stay at home resting and recovering until your symptoms have completely gone. Keep drinking lots of water, resting and eating small amounts of bland food, to ensure your stomach is not unsettled any further.

If your symptoms do not improve after a week, or you are showing signs of serious dehydration, which include confusion, a rapid heartbeat or limited passing of urine, you must call your GP.

In October 2019, British Airways had to pay £15,000 to a woman who encountered a serious episode of food poisoning during her stay at a hotel in the Caribbean, the Occidental Punta Cana Hotel. The woman consumed some undercooked chicken provided by the hotel, resulting in serious gastroenteritis, which involved violent vomiting and diarrhoea. British Airways compensated the woman, whose illness effectively ruined her holiday away due to the unpleasant symptoms of food poisoning.

The UK Food Standards Agency aims to reduce food poisoning in the UK, and therefore cross contamination and food poisoning are dealt with seriously by authorities. It is important to understand how to avoid cross contamination of foods as far as possible.