Monday, March 21, 2011

Cross Contamination

Have you ever gotten a "stomach flu" or the "24 hour runs"? Well more than likely food poisoning is the culprit. There are a few major points that you should watch out for when you are cooking at home or at work. Toxins, spoilage, and cross contamination.

If you have toxic food. Don't prepare prepare it unless you are knowledgeable about it. Wild mushrooms may look tasty, but don't eat it if you don't know if its toxic or not. The same rules apply about many other foods, like fish (Fugu), plants, and insects. Toxins are simple and straightforward to avoid.

Spoiled food? We all know what moldy bread looks like, but would you be able to tell if other foods are spoiled, like soups, and meats? There are three ways to check if something is spoiled. Look at it, if it looks rotten, it probably is. Smell, unless its supposed to smell rotten its probably rotten. Also if it doesn't smell rotten, it may smell "sour" just like milk. Other than the "sour" attribute, that food obtains, I think everyone knows what rotten meat, and seafood smells like, so smell is pretty straight forward as well. Last, if the food looks, and smells alright, but your are still unsure, taste it. Taste it does not mean eat a whole mouthful, it means take a small bit and check the taste. If it is spoiled, spit it out. If you are at home and the food looks and smells alright, but your instincts tell you otherwise my advice would be to follow your instincts. At work, if you are still unsure after tasting it, get a second opinion from someone. 

If you are sure the food isn't poisonous, and not spoiled, the last thing you have to check for is cross contamination. The basics for this is, if you cut something like raw meat on your cutting board, make sure you wash your cutting board and knife, before cutting something else. The same rules apply to allergens, if you use one spoon to serve peanuts don't use the same spoon to serve berries to someone with a peanut allergy. With cross contamination it is easy to understand, but harder to put into practice, because you have to think about what you are doing.

It is easy to make sure you don't get food poisoning at home, as long as you follow those simple steps. If you are going out to eat you are placing your fate in other peoples hands, so be wary, but don't let it scare you away from going out to eat.

The reason I bring this up is the other day at work, I had my helper (whos been working for a good 6 months in the same kitchen as me, and over a year of previous experience) preset some bamboo shoots for the night service. Then before we opened, I smelled something "sour" and knew instantly something had past its prime and needed to be thrown out. So I searched for it and found that the bamboo shoots that he had set were the culprit, and threw it out, and asked why he was going to serve something spoiled, and the response I got was "I didn't know". I thought I did a good job teaching to always check food for spoilage because first off, it is dangerous to the customer, especially young children and the elderly. Second, its utterly embarrassing to have spoiled food leave the kitchen unless its in the trash. So I went back and made sure that everyone who is below me knows how to check for spoiled food, so that this kind of thing does not happen again.


  1. I've read about fugu actually. Mainly just in relation to cannibalism, if I'm honest.

    Great advice btw!

  2. I worked catering bussiness many years. Always makes sure not to have any kind of raw meats stored above cooked food or vegetables or anything like that.

    meat eggs and fish always keep on the bottom of your fridge.

    I keep all mine in separate plastic containers so that there is no chance of it leaking into my fridge.

  3. good to know. it's the worst especially if you never suspected that the food was spoiled.

  4. Great advice, I've been there before.

  5. that's really good to know, thanks.

  6. This is so serious there's an ad campaign for it.