Cross-contamination is a serious threat to any food operation, and a common factor in the cause of food borne illnesses. Microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses from different sources can contaminate foods during preparation and storage. The source of contamination can be anything: raw meat, dirty hands or gloves, and kitchen utensils. Using designated equipment such as colour coded boards and utensils, allows for separation of different foods and reduces the likelihood of raw foods mixing with cooked or ready to eat foods. Maintaining good personal hygiene standards is also essential. The use of protective wear such as gloves, when changed regularly, can further reduce the threat of cross-contamination.
These practices are also important in preventing the cross-contact of food allergens – allergens that are inadvertently transferred to a food that does not contain the allergen. A food allergic person does not need to eat a large amount of the food to have a reaction. Even a slight trace of the allergen, or having food touch a contaminated surface, can cause a severe reaction.