Monday, September 24, 2012

Food Safety Month, Wk.4: Preventing Cross-Contamination during Storage, Prep & Cooking

We’re now in week four of the National Food Safety Month awareness campaign, started in 1994 by the National Restaurant Association, to raise awareness of the importance of food safety. In partnership with the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA), we’ve been sharing the various ways to prevent foodborne illnesses through cross contamination each week in September. This year’s theme is, “Be Safe, Don’t Cross Contaminate.”

This week will explore how to prevent cross-contamination during storage, preparation and cooking.
Pathogens can move around easily in your home kitchen or a restaurant’s kitchen. Cross contamination can happen at almost any point in the flow of food. Knowing how and where it can happen is the key to prevention. The most basic way to prevent cross contamination is to keep raw and ready-to-eat food away each other. Here are some guidelines:
Keep all storage areas clean and dry. Food must be stored in ways that prevent cross contamination.
  • Store all items in designated storage areas
  • Store items away from walls and at least six inches off the floor
  • Store single-use items (e.g. a sleeve of single-use cups) in original packaging
  • Store food in containers intended for food that have been cleaned and sanitized
  • Use containers that are durable, leak proof, and able to be sealed or covered
  • Never use empty food containers to store chemicals, and never put food in empty chemical containers
  • Store dirty linens away from food
  • Clean dollies, carts, transporters and trays often
  • Wrap or cover food. Store raw meat, poultry and seafood separately from ready-to-eat food. Make sure packaging does not leak.
If raw and ready-to-eat food cannot be stored separately, it advisable to store ready-to-eat food above raw meat, poultry or seafood. This will prevent juices from raw food from dripping onto ready-to-eat food. Store raw meat, poultry and seafood in coolers in the following top-to-bottom order: seafood, whole cuts of beef and pork, ground meat and ground fish, who and ground poultry.

Preparation and Cooking
Use separate equipment when handling different types of food. Colored cutting boards and utensil handles are good ways to help keep equipment separate.  The color tells the food handler which equipment to use with each food time. An example is using red for raw meat and green for vegetables.
  • Prep food at different times when using the same prep table. For example, by prepping ready-to-eat food before raw food, you can minimize the chance of cross contamination.
  • Clean and sanitize work surfaces and utensils after each task. This includes thermometers.
  • Buy food that doesn’t require much prepping or handling. For example, buying chopped lettuce instead of chopping it yourself reduces the risk of cross-contamination.
This lesson is part four of a five part series. Week One's lesson was Personal Hygiene, Week Two's lesson was How to Prevent Cross-Contamination through Hand washing, and Week Three's lesson was Cleaning and Sanitizing to Prevent Cross-Contamination.
Through ServSafe, a nationally-approved and recognized, good standard curriculum for food safety and sanitation, the LRA has trained thousands of restaurant and foodservice employees.
To register for a ServSafe course, click here. Classes are offered across Louisiana.

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