Cross contamination is the transference of micro-organisms from raw foods
such as meat or vegetable to ready-to-eat food products. This commonly
occurs during food preparation when two different surfaces come in contact
with each other or when two separate foods come in contact with the same
What are these ominous sounding
microbes? Anything from molds and fungi to bacteria and viruses – so it’s
no surprise that they can lead to food poisoning as well as more serious
illnesses when introduced into the diet of an unsuspecting individual.
Avoiding cross contamination is not just as simple as separating raw
meats and fishes from other foods. They must be separated from each other
as well. Since something like steak is often only partially cooked, the
microbes that it can potentially pick up from chicken or fish are not sufficiently
cooked to eliminate their potential threat.
But before you resort to
vegetarianism, take heart! Cross contamination doesn’t have to be
a problem. All you need to do is practice these simple preventative measures
while preparing your meals…
Watch where you chop:
Every kitchen should be armed
with two chopping boards – one dedicated to fruits and vegetables
and the other to raw meats, poultry and fish. It’s advisable to
purchase a Teflon chopping board or another non-porous material. Avoid
wooden or plastic boards. Microbes can live in cracks and scratches.
Keep it clean:
Every food preparation area should
be washed with hot, soapy water after each use. This includes knives,
utensils and appliances, too. DO NOT submerge electric appliance is water,
even if unplugged – wipe
thoroughly with a warm, soapy dish cloth. Make sure any towels, cloths
and rags are used for their specific purposes and are deposited in the
used laundry hamper after they become compromised. There’s no point
washing the fish off your chopping board if you’re just going to
dry it with a towel that absorbed chicken-juice from the countertop.
Well thawed out:
Once raw meats, poultry and fish
have said goodbye to the freezer, make sure they’re placed in a leak-proof container in
the fridge. This will not only prevent raw juices spilling onto other food
products but will also ensure that the product won’t go bad from
sustained exposure to room temperature. It might take longer to thaw you
meat this way but you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that it’s
safe to eat.
Prioritize your prep:
Half the battle can be won by prepping your foodstuff
in an intuitive, safety-first priority sequence, washing your hands and
implements thoroughly between each phase. Start with breads, then dairy,
then fruits and vegetables and finish with your meat, poultry or fish.
Don’t forget the herbicides, pesticides and
fertilizers present on the surface of many fruits and vegetables. From
chemicals to cow manure, it’s worth the wash to avoid consumption.
On the floor:
Don’t place containers, packages or objects on your
prep area or chopping boards if they have previously resided on the floor.
It’s a challenge enough keeping you countertop clean without having
to worry about whatever microscopic threats live on your floor.
Practice these simple preventative
measures and the only thing you’ll
have to worry about at dinner is keeping the conversation flowing.