Pathogens can be spread from food or unwashed hands to prep areas, equipment, utensils or other food. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent this.

Here are five important tips for preventing cross-contamination in your operation.

Implement a personal hygiene program. To lessen the possibility of food handlers contaminating food, institute a good personal hygiene program that includes policies addressing critical hand practices like proper handwashing, hand care and glove use. Also address staff cleanliness and work attire, focusing on topics such as bathing, clean clothing, the proper use of hair restraints and prohibited jewelry. Finally, policies should be put in place to make sure food handlers come to work healthy. Include actions such as reporting illnesses and covering wounds.

Remind employees to wash their hands. This is especially important after using the restroom and after handling raw meat, seafood and poultry. Once employees have washed their hands, ensure they use a single-use paper towel or hand dryer, rather than any part of their uniform, to dry.

Use separate equipment. Each type of food should be prepped and handled with a separate piece of equipment. For example, use one set of cutting boards, utensils and containers for raw poultry. Use another set for raw meat, and use a third set for produce. Some operations use colored cutting boards and utensil handles to help keep equipment separate. If this system is not possible at your restaurant, prep food at different times.

Clean and sanitize all work surfaces. All work surfaces, equipment and utensils should be cleaned and sanitized after each task. Simply rinsing equipment is not enough to eliminate pathogens that can contaminate food.

Purchase prepared food. You can prevent cross-contamination by purchasing food that doesn’t require much prepping. This minimizes handling and can reduce the transfer of pathogens from one surface or food to another. For more information on cross-contamination and how to avoid it, check out our ServSafe food safety training.