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Food Contamination Prevention in Facilities

7 Minutes Read

Every day, there’s a possibility that food is contaminated with a pathogen, which is why food contamination prevention protocols are critical for food facilities

Here is what you should know about food contamination and how it can be prevented.


Before we get deeper into how to prevent food contamination, we should discuss how become contaminated in the first place.

Food often goes through several steps––production, processing, distribution, and preparation––and contamination can occur at any point during the process. 

A significant portion of the risk of contamination occurs as the food passes through the production facilities. Some of the notable ways that contamination can occur in facilities include:

Inadequate Handwashing

If infected employees fail to wash their hands properly, they can transfer pathogens to the foods at any point during production. The pathogens are typically transferred from trace amounts of bacteria, viruses, or fecal matter on the hands.


Cross-contamination can occur in many ways.

Food, equipment, tools, and surfaces can all become contaminated by contact with raw foods or unwashed hands. 

  • Using the same tools and utensils on different foods without washing them can lead to the transfer of microbes. 
  • Cooked foods can become re-contaminated if they touch raw foods or drippings containing pathogens.

Improper Storage and Cooking

Pathogens would have to multiply to a much more significant number before the potential to cause disease becomes an issue. Freezing or refrigerating foods typically prevents bacteria from multiplying. Bacteria, viruses, and parasites can also be killed if foods are heated to an appropriate temperature. 

Contamination Caused by Animal Waste

Many foodborne illness-causing microbes are present in healthy animals raised for food. 

  • Small amounts of intestinal contents can contaminate meat and poultry during slaughter. 
  • Produce can get contaminated if they are washed with contaminated water.


Understanding how contamination occurs is only part of the equation; you must also know how to prevent food contamination.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) breaks preventative measures into four sections: clean, separate, cook, and chill. The associated food contamination prevention methods include:


Cleanliness is critical to preventing contamination. This not only means maintaining personal hygiene but also maintaining a hygienic cooking and preparation space. Otherwise, the germs that can cause food poisoning will survive and spread, contaminating more surfaces and products. To maintain the cleanliness:

  • Wash your hands properly: Proper handwashing means washing for at least 20 seconds using soap and water. Handwashing should happen before, during, and after food preparation or eating. 
    • It is also vital to wash hands after working with raw food products like meat, chicken, other forms of poultry, seafood, flour, and eggs. 
  • After each use, wash all your tools and countertops using hot, soapy water.
  • Rinse fresh produce under running water.


Separation is part of preventing cross-contamination. It is vital to avoid spreading bacteria, viruses, and allergens.

  • Keep raw meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from ready-to-eat food products to avoid the spread of germs.
    • This includes separating these items while shopping.
    • When storing these foods, keep them separated. Raw meat and poultry should also be stored in sealed containers to prevent their juices from contaminating other wood.
    • Have a designated cutting board or plate for raw meats, poultry, and seafood.
    • Raw chicken that is ready to be cooked does not have to be washed. Washing can cause the spread of germs into other foods, the sink, and counters, which can lead to illness. If you opt to wash it anyway, take the proper precautions.


Cooking food, although part of the food preparation process, is also an appropriate food contamination practice. Simply stated, higher internal food temperatures help kill germs that can make you ill. These temperatures vary depending on the food, and the best way to ensure food has reached the right temperature is to use a food thermometer and place it correctly.

  • Whole cuts of beef, veal, lamb, or pork, including ham: 145ºF with three minutes of rest.
  • Fish with fins: 145ºF, or until the flesh becomes opaque and it separates easily.
  • Ground meats: 160ºF
  • All poultry, including ground forms: 165ºF
  • Leftovers and casseroles: 165ºF

When using a microwave to cook foods, follow the cooking instructions and allow it to sit so heat can reach any remaining cold spots. 

  • Familiarize yourself with your microwave's wattage, which can affect cooking times.
  • When reheating foods, use a food thermometer to ensure foods reach 165ºF


When foods are left out at room temperature or in the "Danger Zone" temperatures of 40ºF to 140ºF, bacteria can quickly multiply.

  • Refrigerators should maintain temperatures of 40ºF and freezer temperatures at or below 0ºF.
  • Store warm or hot foods in shallow containers before storing them in the refrigerator to help them chill faster.
  • Perishable foods like meats, seafood, dairy, etc., should be refrigerated within 2 hours. If these foods have been exposed to temperatures of 90ºF, then refrigerate them within one hour. 
  • To thaw frozen foods safely, you can store them in refrigeration, cold water, or microwave. Never put food on the counter to thaw, as bacteria can multiply quickly as the food reaches room temperature.


AdobeStock_190423168_webThere are many forms of cross-contamination and ways for it to spread. Many of the preventative methods covered above also apply to preventing cross-contamination. Here’s how you can prevent cross-contamination based on the methods of transfer:

Chemical-to-Food: This cross-contamination occurs when food products come into contact with chemicals.

  • Label all chemicals clearly
  • Keep chemicals and cleaning products in a designated storage area and away from food.

Food-to-Food: Contact between contaminated and uncontaminated food can lead to contamination. It can occur if foods directly come into contact with each other or if surfaces and tools are improperly cleaned while switching between foods.

  • Keep ready-to-eat foods away from allergens as well as raw foods.
  • Use designated cutting boards for allergens and raw foods.
  • Change gloves immediately after handling either allergens or raw foods, and wash your hands.

Person-to-Food: Employees can pathogens with improper food handling or handling foods while ill.

  • Practice good hygiene, including washing hands regularly, wearing gloves, and wearing the appropriate clothing.
  • Have clear guidelines on safe food handling in place.
  • Ensure employees follow the correct steps if they are ill.

Pest-to-Food: Rodents, insects, and other animals are known to carry dangerous pathogens. If they touch foods or surfaces, it can lead to contamination.

  • Store foods a minimum of six inches above the floor.
  • Keep all foods covered and in sealed containers.
  • Keep the kitchen clean and sanitized, picking up any messes and food debris to avoid attracting pests.


Contamination is a serious issue in food facilities, and employees must understand what they should and should not do. 

Here are five common mistakes food workers make and tips to answer the question of how should food workers protect food from contamination.

1. Poor Personal Hygiene

It's been brought up repeatedly throughout this article, but it is so vital it is worth repeating again: personal hygiene is critical to food contamination prevention. The effects of poor hygiene can be dangerous, leading to the spread of harmful pathogens like E. coli, Salmonella, and Norovirus.

Maintaining good personal hygiene is more than ensuring employees wash their hands correctly. It also means wearing the appropriate clothing, including hair or beard nets, to prevent hair or other foreign particles from contaminating the food.

Another aspect of good personal hygiene is performing health checks and ensuring employees report any health issues and illnesses, especially gastrointestinal issues. In these cases, employees should be made to stay home to prevent spreading their illness.

2. Failure to Clean and Sanitize Properly

Cleaning and sanitizing are vital for preventing bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens from spreading. Employees must be diligent with these tasks, following the pre-set guidelines to ensure all equipment and surfaces are cleaned correctly and maintaining a regular schedule.

Employees must also pay attention to the details; they must use the right amount of cleaning agent and keep it on for the right amount of time. Otherwise, it can be dangerous or ineffective.

3. Improper Temperature Control

Foods become most susceptible to pathogen growth at temperatures between 40ºF and 140ºF. Failure to Maintain the appropriate temperatures, hot or cold, can result in the growth of bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.

  • Hot foods should remain at 140ºF or higher
  • Cold foods should remain at 40ºF or below
  • Frozen foods should remain at 0ºF or below
  • Cool and refrigerate foods as soon as possible.
  • Use food-grade thermometers to check the temperatures of stored and prepared foods.

4. Lack of Allergen Awareness

When employees ignore potential allergens, it can lead to critical, potentially even fatal, mistakes. Employees should receive education on the major food allergens and how to avoid cross-contamination. Further:

  • Foods should have clear labels that denote any allergens. 
  • Tools and utensils must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before each use to prevent allergen cross-contamination.
  • Employees should also wash their hands and change their gloves when dealing with allergens. 

5. Re-Using Tools and Utensils for Different Foods

While washing tools and utensils between uses is important, having separate ones for different food categories is important. By having separate, color-coded sets, you can greatly minimize the risk of cross-contamination. You will want different sets for meat, fish, dairy, and various allergens to avoid any risk.



A clean facility cannot happen without your employees. All employees should receive thorough training on cleaning and sanitizing the facility and identifying and finding solutions to various issues. The better-trained employees are, the less likely they are to make mistakes that can lead to contamination or other issues. 

Training shouldn't be a one-time event; it shouldn't even be yearly. Training should be an ongoing process to be effective and ensure employees don't forget. That will also ensure that as regulations and expectations are updated, they can be implemented quickly.

1. Have a Documented Plan

Even with ongoing training, a detailed, physically documented program is vital. This program will detail everything that goes into cleaning and sanitizing your facility, including what products to use and in what order. It should also detail what to do in specific situations. This plan will give employees something to refer to if they need to clarify something or if a unique situation arises where they need to confirm what to do. 

2. Install Sanitary Floor Drainage

Every sanitary facility requires a sanitary floor drain to help manage wastewater. The FoodSafe Slot Drain is one of the top systems on the market, providing food industry facilities with superior wastewater management. They offer the 10,000 Series and 6,000 PLUS-R Series, NSF/ANSI/3-A certified systems constructed of T304 and T316 stainless steel. 

Unlike traditional trench drains, these systems have a slim channel that does not require a grate, while still offering flow rates up to 27 GPM. The two systems are heavy-duty and forklift-rated at Load Class E, making them suitable for any part of the facility. They are also compatible with the FoodSafe Catch Basin, which has a similar construction and makes retrieving and disposing of solids easy and sanitary. The Slot Drain is easy to clean and clean-in-place technology adds another layer of sanitation to the systems. 

3. Color Code Sanitation Tools

Facilities have many sanitation tools: buckets, mops, hoses, etc. Each task should have its own tools to help minimize the risk of spreading bacteria and germs. A color-coded system will help identify the different tools for each task and ensure they aren't used for anything else.

Preventing Food Contamination in Facilities

The question "How can cross contamination be prevented?" doesn't have a single answer. 

Contamination is a serious issue that can occur in so many different ways.

Several things, including good personal hygiene and a sanitary floor drain, are essential to preventing contamination. By taking the steps to implement these things, you will ensure a safer, cleaner facility free from contamination issues.

Contact FoodSafe Drains today to learn more about our sanitary drainage systems and how they help prevent contamination.