The past few decades have seen increased cross-contamination of food and water in industrial settings, leading to public health concerns. Cross-contamination refers to the often unintentional transfer of microbes, chemical contaminants (including allergens), or other foreign substances from food, objects, or person to other food products.
It can occur at various stages of food production, including where food is stored or during handling and preparation. There are many different causes for cross-contamination, but all the reasons can be prevented if specific guidelines are adhered to.
With today’s focus on food safety and the globalization of the food supply chain, facilities that handle food must clearly understand cross-contamination and its prevention in Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
If you are looking to improve your processes, make sure you go through these five cross-contamination prevention guidelines to stay compliant and avoid losing ground to your competitors.
What Are the Possible Causes of Cross-contamination?
According to the CDC: “Food, equipment, food contact surfaces and people are considered important sources of cross-contamination.”
For example, if you were to chop raw meat on a cutting board and then use it to cut vegetables, you would have cross-contaminated the vegetables and made them unfit to eat because the potentially harmful leftovers from the raw meat have contaminated the vegetables.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost one out of every ten people worldwide becomes ill after eating tainted food, and 4,20 000 people die each year.
But, what causes cross-contamination? There are four ways in which contaminants can move through a process:
Raw food is considered an essential agent of cross-contamination. Raw food containing harmful bacteria, such as in uncooked meats, may contact other foods and contaminate them.
For instance, microbial contamination can occur to Ready To Eat (RTE) items from blood dropping from raw meat during storage (if RTE products are stored uncovered and below raw meat products).
Equipment and food contact substances
Food residues on equipment and other surfaces where food comes in contact, such as conveyor belts, assembly lines, storage units, etc., can cross-contaminate other food products.
One of the most widespread examples of this type of cross-contamination is when an unclean and dirty cloth is used to wipe tables which can potentially contaminate the food with bacteria and allergens when served on it.
Moreover, cross-contamination is possible due to pathogens contaminating the RTE products during packaging due to contaminated packaging material, among others.
Microorganisms and allergies may be transferred to food by food workers who do not observe Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs).
For instance, factory workers who do not adhere to GMPs (or cut corners in the process) may cross-contaminate food with allergens and pathogens while handling foods.
Moreover, workers can contaminate RTE goods with filthy uniforms, gloves, and dirty boots.
Apart from these sources, there are many ways in which foodborne illness can occur, such as:
- Production stage: The way food is prepared for the end-user from plants or animals.
- Equipment handling: Cross-contamination can occur anywhere along the path of food processing, starting from harvest or slaughter.
- Transportation and distribution of food: The process of transporting food can cause unwanted flavors to transfer between the transported products.
For example, if a truck carrying poultry is also responsible for distributing flour or bread products, the vehicle will likely acquire the taste and smell of chicken.
Today, you’re probably not using any harmful ingredients to make your product. Still, it’s important to understand good manufacturing practices and how you can avoid making mistakes that could potentially cause problems for your business.
5 Cross-Contamination Prevention Guidelines
GMP or good manufacturing practices is the system businesses follow to maintain consistency and quality during the production of cosmetics, food, or pharmaceuticals.
The goal of GMPs is to create an environment that prevents contamination and makes a safe product for consumers.
Before market distribution, inspections and quality audits are conducted to ensure that these products comply with safety, quality, and branding standards.
In food manufacturing, the most critical part of creating a safe product that is healthy and tasty is the quality of the ingredients and the processes used to make them.
Therefore, the requirements of good manufacturing practices allow food to be free of contaminants, undesirable substances, and stable.
Here are five cross-contamination prevention guidelines you can implement in your organization:
1. Set clear procedures and work instructions
To avoid cross-contamination, specify operating procedures and work instructions. Each member of the organization should follow the guidelines to ensure control and consistent performance.
Ensure procedures are approved by the quality department and are clear, concise and logical to avoid confusion and malpractices.
2. Choose the right people and offer adequate training to employees
To ensure that each product is being handled/built with the highest quality, an organization needs reliable workers who know how to do their job right from the start. Training should be provided for all employees whose activities could affect the quality of the product.
3. Protect the environment by practicing hygiene
When we talk about good manufacturing practices, there is nothing more critical than cleanliness and hygiene, particularly for drug, cosmetic, and food manufacturers.
The fight against contamination is a constant battle and requires the attention of every single employee.
Add these steps to your good hygiene practices:
- Make sure the packaging equipment is always clean before and after using them.
- Kick any clutter out of your workstation and remove all unnecessary documents.
- Provide employees with a ‘tool kit’ and instruction manuals to ensure they are equipped with the right equipment and correct information.
4. Schedule timely inspections and audits
Conduct inspections to ensure every employee is aware of the GMP regulations. FDA auditors track the overall performance of your team and check for any potential gaps in the system.
Generally, a self-inspection process involves:
- Making sure that suitable materials are in place to produce products.
- Ensuring the products meet the specifications and are tested and approved before releasing them.
- Ensuring manufacturing areas such as table packaging and labeling areas are clean to avoid mix-ups and errors.
- Finally, ensuring employees are trained correctly and can understand written procedures while working.
5. Follow labeling standards
It’s possible that you may experience issues with mislabeling during production and packaging. Any such risk is a danger to health! This is why mislabeling is one of the things GMP aims to prevent.
A study revealed that mislabeling leads to cross-contamination, poor food quality, and even degradation of nutrients.
What can you do to avoid mislabeling products?
- Design a separate work area for executing operations on unlabelled products.
- Separate storage for printed materials such as labels and leaflets will avoid mislabelling issues.
- All products, equipment, and bulk containers must be labeled correctly to avoid contamination.
- When labeling is done, fill in the right product and seal it immediately.
How to Get Your Business Audit-Ready?
Are you concerned with how to effectively monitor GMP compliance? Inspecting manufacturing processes all the time can be tiring and time-consuming. But here’s a solution for that, you can centralize the restaurant hygiene process with Pulse’s cloud kitchen and checklists library.
How can you use Pulse? It lets your team members report any incidents, suggestions, or problems on the mobile app within minutes. This way, managers can tackle issues before they get out of hand.
Whether managers want to check their staff’s work off of a task list, review the latest food and sanitary compliance reports, or wish to schedule inspections – the app lets you get more done with less effort.
Schedule a demo today or try it for free to get the actual experience. Call us at 1800-266-9988 in case of any queries.