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What is cross-contamination?

Cross-contamination happens when bacteria and viruses transfer from a contaminated food or surface to another food.

For example, cross-contamination can occur when bacteria on uncovered raw meat transfers to ready to eat veggies in the fridge. It can also happen on the bench, via utensils or during cooking – basically at any time during food preparation!

Why is it a concern?

Cross-contamination is a concern because cooking kills bacteria, but ready to eat foods like salads, fruit and already cooked foods won’t be going through this process, leaving the bacteria live and potentially putting you and your family at risk of food poisoning. Cross-contamination is one of the leading causes of foodborne illness and can’t be taken lightly.

What can we do to avoid it?

There are some ways we can simply and easily avoid cross-contamination and the risks it carries.

At the supermarket:

  • Separate raw meat, seafood and poultry from other groceries in your shopping trolley or basket
  • Place these foods in plastic bags to prevent juices dripping
  • It’s best to keep these foods in separate bags at the checkout as well

In the fridge:

The location of your food in the refrigerator is critical to food safety. Check out our tips in this post.

In the kitchen:

  • Wash your hands and surfaces often; this includes counters, utensils and chopping boards. Use soap and water and make sure you’re replacing or washing your cleaning cloth or sponge regularly.
  • Try to use one chopping board for fresh produce and ready to eat foods and another for meat, poultry and seafood. Replace boards with damage, heavy wear or hard to clean grooves. Plastic or glass boards should be used for cutting raw meats, avoid wood.
  • When marinating food, keep it covered and in the fridge. Marinade used on meat, poultry or seafood shouldn’t be used on cooked foods unless it has been cooked first.
  • Always wash fruit and veg before chopping, even if you’re going to peel them. This is because bacteria on the outside of the fruit or vegetable can contaminate the inside during preparation.
  • Use running water when rinsing your fresh produce and discard the outer leaves of things like lettuce.
  • Store your cut, prepared and ready to eat produce in the fridge, not on the countertop.

At the table:

  • Always use clean crockery and cutlery when eating and serving.
  • Don’t return cooked food to a plate raw food has been on.
  • Cover and refrigerate leftovers without delay.