September 14

Safe Food Preparation Guidelines

Cross-contamination is the transfer of pathogens from one surface or food to another. Pathogens can move around easily in your operation. They can be spread from food or unwashed hands to prep areas, equipment, utensils, and other food. Cross-contamination can happen at almost any point in the flow of food. When you know how and where it can happen, it is easy to prevent. Here are six tips to help you prevent cross-contamination.

Tip 1: Keep contaminated food out of the operation during receiving:
  • Make sure food packaging is intact and clean. Reject food that is dirty, water-stained, leaking, or discolored
  • Make sure packaging does not have holes, tear, punctures, or other types of damage
  • Make sure cans that are received are not dented, rusty, or have swollen ends
  • Reject items if you see signs of pests
Tip 2: Store food in ways that prevent cross-contamination:
  • Store food in designated food-storage areas
  • Store food away from walls and at least six inches (15 centimeters) off the floor
  • Wrap or cover food before storing it. This can stop contaminants from falling into food
  • Only store food in containers intended for food
  • Store raw and ready-to-eat food separately if possible
  • If separate storage is not possible, store food in the following top to bottom order (based on the minimum internal cooking temperature of each food):
    • Ready-to-eat food
    • Seafood
    • Whole cuts of beef and pork
    • Ground meat and ground fish
    • Whole and ground poultry
Tip 3: Prepare food in ways that prevent cross-contamination:
  • Make sure workstations, cutting boards, equipment, and utensils are cleaned and sanitized before use
  • Don’t allow ready-to-eat food to touch surfaces that have come in contact with raw meat, seafood, or poultry
  • Prep raw meat, seafood, and poultry at a different time than ready-to-eat food when using the same table
  • Clean and sanitize work surfaces, utensils, and equipment between each product.
Tip 4: Serve food in ways that prevent cross-contamination. Surfaces that touch food are called food-contact surfaces. Many of the utensils and equipment you use have food-contact surfaces. Plates, glasses, forks, and tongs are examples. You can contaminate these surfaces if you are not careful when handling them.
  • Do NOT touch dishes, glassware, or utensils by the parts that come in contact with food
    • Hold dishes by the bottom or edge
    • Hold glasses by the middle, bottom, or stem
    • Hold flatware by the handles
  • Do NOT use bare hands to handle ready-to-eat food
    • Use tongs, deli sheets, or gloves
  • Never scoop ice with your bare hands
  • Use utensils properly
    • Never use the same utensils when handling ready-to-eat food and raw meat, poultry, or seafood
    • Use separate utensils when serving different food items
    • Store serving utensils in food with the handles extended beyond the rims of the containers
  • Cover food to protect it from contaminants
  • Never use towels for cleaning food spills for any other purpose
Tip 5: Store utensils and equipment in ways that prevent cross-contamination. Utensils and equipment with food-contact surfaces, such as cutting boards, must be stored in ways that prevent contamination. The same is true for nonfood items such as napkins and plastic forks and knives.
  • Store utensils and equipment that touches food at least six inches (15 centimeters) off the floor
  • Store glasses and cups upside down on a clean and sanitized surface
  • Store utensils with handles up
Tip 6: Protect guests with allergies from allergic reactions. Both service staff and kitchen staff must do their part to avoid serving food containing allergens to people with food allergies. Here are some things you can do:
  • Learn which foods commonly cause allergic reactions. This includes milk, soy, eggs, wheat, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts
  • Identify items on your menu that contain allergens for your guests
  • Be prepared to tell guests how items are prepared
  • Clearly identify allergen special orders for the back of house staff
  • Check recipes and ingredient labels to confirm that the allergen is not present
  • Clean and sanitize cookware, utensils, and equipment before preparing food for customers with allergies
  • Wash your hands and change gloves before prepping food
  • Make sure the allergen doesn’t touch anything for customers with food allergies
  • Hand deliver food to guests with food allergies

Safe Food Preparation Steps for Success:

  1. Stay away from contaminated food
  2. Store food to prevent cross-contamination
  3. Prepare food to prevent cross-contamination
  4. Serve food to prevent cross-contamination
  5. Store utensils to prevent cross-contamination
  6. Protect guests with allergies
To extend your Food Safety Month experience, visit our resources page to download posters, activity sheets, and more!