What are the dangers of cross-contamination?

Q: I don’t get what “cross-contamination” means? Is it unsafe?

A: Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, cutting boards, utensils, etc., if they are not handled properly. This is especially true when handling raw meat, poultry and seafood. Keep these foods and their juices away from already cooked or ready-to-eat foods and fresh produce to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Keep foods apart by following these simple steps:

¢ Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods in your grocery-shopping cart by putting them on the lower shelf (if the cart has one). Also, place these foods in plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods. Separate these foods from other foods at check out and in your grocery bags.

When refrigerating food:

¢ Place raw meat, poultry and seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods.

¢ Store on trays and place on the lower shelf of the refrigerator.

¢ Store eggs in their original carton and refrigerate as soon as possible.

When preparing food:

¢ Wash hands and surfaces often. Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils and counter tops. To prevent this:

¢ Wash hands with soap and hot water before and after handling food, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers or handling pets.

¢ Use hot, soapy water and paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills. Wash cloths often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

¢ Wash cutting boards, dishes and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.

¢ A solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water may be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils.

Cutting boards:

¢ Always use a clean cutting board.

¢ If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.

¢ Once cutting boards become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, you should replace them.

Marinating food:

¢ Always marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

¢ Sauce that is used to marinate raw meat, poultry or seafood should not be used on cooked foods, unless it is boiled just before using.

Transporting food to an event:

¢ Wrap food well; keep raw meats and poultry separate from cooked foods and/or foods that will be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables.

¢ Use separate coolers for beverages and food.

When serving food:

¢ Always use a clean plate.

¢ Always take a clean plate for return trips to the salad or food bar.

¢ Keep dirty utensils separate from clean ones. Store the serving utensils in the food when serving, not on the table or counter.

¢ Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food.

When storing leftovers:

¢ Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours or sooner in clean, shallow, covered containers to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying.

¢ Store cooked or ready-to-eat food above raw meat, poultry and fish in the refrigerator.

– Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.