Food safety: how to avoid cross contamination
News | 24th May 2023
How to avoid cross contamination for food safety: from the precautions to be taken, to the professional slicers and tools to be chosen.
Cross contamination has long been a topic of discussion among various communities, with the aim of determining how it occurs, and possible solutions to ensure safety during the use of various products. Cross contamination is the transfer of microorganisms or chemicals from one food to another. It can occur either directly, through contact between two foods, or else indirectly, through contact with equipment or packaging. This risk, which can lead to more or less serious infections and intoxications (also depending on specific food allergies or intolerances) is of greatest concern for organisations and professionals operating in the food sector, and is present throughout all the various stages: from preparation and packaging, to the serving of the food items to the end consumer. Cross-contamination occurs when a contaminating element is unintentionally transferred from one food item to another, often from raw food to cooked food. Cross-contamination does not necessarily have to involve pathogenic microorganisms: in fact, substances that can trigger allergies or food intolerances must also be taken into consideration. For example, foods that are declared to be “gluten free” must be prepared with the utmost care in order to avoid any potential contact with ingredients that could contain gluten.
Avoiding cross contamination
In order to avoid or minimise the risk of cross-contamination, several elements must be taken into account. In fact, negligence and incorrect conduct can compromise both the food handling and preparation phase, as well as the storage phase. It is always recommended to ensure the cleanliness of the operators’ hands (both before and after handling food items), as well as the surfaces and utensils utilised. Since cross contamination mainly occurs from raw to cooked food, it is important not to use the same utensils, and to separate them for storage purposes. Therefore, when using utensils such as cutting boards, knives, and other kitchen equipment, it is important to always ensure the proper use of the utensils themselves based on the type of food being handled, and to wash them frequently.
Professional slicers: how to avoid cross contamination
Another measure that can be taken to reduce the risk of cross contamination is to choose food processing equipment that’s made with top quality and easy-to-clean materials, and is designed to ensure maximum safety in terms of cross contamination.
In this regard, it is important to take every process into consideration, starting with the preparation of the ingredients. In the case of slicers, for example, the blades and plates come into direct contact with many different food items, and at a very high frequency. In order to ensure that these types of machines are able to be used safely, Sirman has developed its own solution, which involves the use of anodised aluminium. In fact, once they have been removed from the mould and polished, many of the components of the company’s professional slicers undergo an electrochemical process whereby a protective layer of oxide is formed on the outer surface. This process renders the machines and their components non-toxic, making them particularly safe for food contact.
Another important practice for reducing the risk of cross-contamination is to use different utensils and accessories for foods with different bacterial loads.
In this regard, Sirman’s vertical slicing machines come in two variants: those with a plate dedicated to cutting deli meats, and those with a plate for fresh meat. In fact, cross contamination frequently occurs due to contact between raw foods and cooked or cured foods, and is consequently a risk when both come into contact with the same unsanitised equipment.
These two different variants are therefore designed for use with specific types of foods. The use of these plates exclusively for designated food items not only eliminates the risk of cross-contamination, but also facilitates the handling of the various products, as well as the cleaning of the machines themselves, as discussed in one of our blog articles.
For deli meats, for example, which have irregular shapes (consider the difference between mortadella and speck), the arm that holds the product in place has a studded surface, while the tray is completely flat. The two trays that slide over one another are completely flat. As far as fresh meats are concerned, since the product is not compact, it needs to be contained. It is also necessary to ensure that the fresh product doesn’t stick to the plate, as this can result in imprecise slices. The plates designed for these types of products are therefore tub-shaped with lateral edges, and both of the plates that slide over one another have edges designed to facilitate the cutting activities.
|LEONARDO 370 VCS TOP slicer with a plate designed for fresh meat||LEONARDO 370 EVO BS3 slicer with a plate designed for cured meat|
Another measure to be taken in order to reduce the risk of cross contamination is thorough cleaning. Sirman machines are designed to be easy to clean and sanitise. In fact, despite the fact that aluminium machines with rounded contours are more time consuming and expensive to produce, Sirman has opted to minimise the presence of corners and edges on its slicing machines in order to make them easier to clean. Many of their components can even be removed to facilitate washing, and on the Stonehenge line of slicers, which are specifically intended for food items other than fresh and cured meats, the detachable parts are even dishwasher safe. Even Sirman’s extremely robust slicers, like the Legend flywheel model, have carriages that can be conveniently detached for easy washing. This is an exclusive convenience offered by Sirman, which is the only company to provide this feature.
Constant sanitisation, proper use of equipment, and the maintenance of a clean working environment are effective measures that can be taken to eliminate or minimise the risk of cross contamination. Having machines that are easy to clean and sanitise, thanks to the materials they’re made of, and the presence of rounded shapes and removable components, significantly reduces the time and resources required for the daily cleaning processes.
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Cross contamination is the transfer of microorganisms or chemicals from one food to another. This process generally occurs when raw and cooked foods come into contact.