How to Avoid Cross Contamination in Your Restaurant Kitchen

avoid restaurant kitchen cross contamination food service safety

If there’s one enemy of your commercial kitchen, it’s bacteria. Germs are everywhere, and they can quickly shut down a kitchen if you’re not careful. 

The key to keeping your restaurant safe is to prevent cross contamination. What is cross contamination? Simply, it’s when bacteria from one food is transferred to another. 

For example, if you use the same knife to slice chicken and then to cut a banana, you’ve then transferred bacteria from the chicken onto the fruit. Not only does this increase your risk of disease, but it can be very dangerous for those who suffer from food allergies. 

However, with a few key safety tips, you can avoid this problem and help keep your customers happy. To learn more, keep reading to find our top tips for preventing cross contamination in your restaurant kitchen. 

Wash Hands Frequently 

One of the easiest ways to reduce cross contamination is with frequent hand washing. Kitchen staff and servers should always wash their hands frequently throughout their shift. 

Wash hands after touching poultry or raw meat, fish, or after eating or using the restroom. Hands should then be thoroughly dried using paper towels or hand dryer, and not via their apron or part of the uniform. 

Removing excess jewelry, such as rings or bracelets, is also helpful, as bacteria can be found on jewelry, which is then transferred to food. 

Make things easy for your staff by having plenty of handwashing stations around the workplace. You can also place signs reminding them to wash with antibacterial soap for at last 20 seconds. 

Employee Hygiene Matters 

Cross contamination prevention isn’t just about washing hands—your employees should also take extra precautions to keep their workplace safe. 

Remind staff to always tie their hair back when working, to stop hair or allergens from getting into food. They will also need to wash their uniforms frequently, ensuring they are not bringing dirty clothes into the kitchen. 

If staff are feeling unwell, especially with coughing, sneezing, or a stomach bug, they should stay home. Coming to work sick is a surefire way not only to make their colleagues sick, but also to pass their infections to restaurant customers on plates and in food. 

Use Separate Equipment for Each Type of Food 

If you’re looking for cross contamination examples, one of the most serious ones is to think about food allergies. Millions of Americans suffer from food allergies, which can be deadly. 

Say a chef is chopping nuts, then reuses that cutting board to chop chicken without thoroughly rinsing it. This means there is nut residue and oils left on the cutting board and they are then transferred onto the chicken. 

When the customer with nut allergies eats the chicken, they may have an allergic reaction. Avoid this risk by using separate food prep equipment for different types of foods. 

Have a set of knives and cutting boards for chicken, seafood, nuts, and other high-risk foods. This ensures that there is no risk of cross contamination between different foods. 

Kitchen staff should also be aware of some of the most common food allergies, which include seafood, nuts, milk, wheat, and soy. When orders from the front of house come in and mention these allergies, kitchen staff need to take them seriously. 

Disinfect Surfaces 

An effective way to prevent cross contamination is by disinfecting work surfaces, such as countertops and kitchen prep areas. Throughout a busy night in a restaurant kitchen, surfaces can become dirty quickly, with oils, sweat, juices from meats, or spills. 

A clean chef is a good chef, so make sure your staff are constantly tidying up their workspaces and keeping the kitchen clean. The best way to clean is with disinfectant spray and a clean rag or wipe—they should be washed after each use. 

If you’d like to learn more about contamination and how it can impact your workplace, visit the CDC and OSHA websites. 

Rinse Fruit and Veggies Before Cooking 

When serving or cooking fruits and vegetables, washing them beforehand is an important step that we sometimes forget about. 

Produce often travels a long way before it reaches a restaurant kitchen, and there’s no way of knowing how many people have handled it or whether it’s been exposed to any bacteria. 

Rinsing is an effective way to prevent the spread of diseases, such as E. coli. Rinsing food also helps remove any fertilizers or chemicals that it may have come in contact with on the farm. 

Refrigerate Food Appropriately 

When you’re storing food in the fridge, consider where it’s being stored. For example, if you put raw meat on a higher shelf, and fruits on a lower shelf, can you guarantee that no liquids from the meats will drip down and potentially land on the fruit? 

Think about where and how you’re storing food. Ideally, each food should be in an airtight container, preventing it from coming into contact with any other foods. 

Limited freezer and fridge space can often be an issue in kitchens, so put some planning into your storage system and come up with a safe way to store all your foods. 

Avoid Cross Contamination with These Top Tips 

When it comes to managing a commercial kitchen, health and safety always need to come first. To ensure your restaurant is performing at its best, use the pro tips above to prevent food cross contamination

Not only will this ensure you pass all local health and safety inspections, but it will also keep your staff and customers happy and healthy. Over time, it also helps your restaurant have a positive reputation and hopefully many repeat customers. 

Did you find this article on food industry cross contamination prevention to be useful? If so, please browse some of our additional articles on the restaurant and food service industry to help avoid cross contamination and improve safety.

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