What are the potential sources of cross-contamination?

Facility Management | 20/2/2023

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Though there are many forms that bacteria can spread throughout premises; most of which spread without human contact. For example, bacteria naturally live in the air, on food and on people. However, cross-contamination is the direct or indirect transmission of bacteria from one surface, object or person to another. For this reason, if businesses and their staff take the right actions, it is one of the most preventable forms of contamination in all settings, whether they are businesses or homes. 

The following blog will explore the true definition of cross-contamination, how it can be prevented and how the Rubbermaid Commercial Products range can make it even easier to manage. 

What is cross-contamination? 

Cross-contamination, as the name states, is the contamination of surfaces, objects, people, food, or just about anything due to their paths crossing. The term is most commonly noted in food service, especially around the cooking of raw chicken. For example, should the bacteria of raw chicken, which is harmful to humans, come into contact with cooked food, it can cause significant illness. 

But, cross-contamination is not just limited to food. It is present in all settings. Another example would include if a hotel worker were to touch clean linen without washing their hands after handling dirty linen.

As noted in the example, cross-contamination always has a force at play, such as a person moving items from one place to another. 

Common sources of cross-contamination: The hands 

As the hands are the most used part of the body in all jobs, it’s no surprise that they are the leading cause of cross-contamination. It is important to note that some instances of cross-contamination are accidental. Though, the most prevalent ways that bacteria spread within a business is due to staff either not washing their hands or not washing their hands effectively. It’s essential that staff are made aware of the best handwashing practices, but that they are constantly retrained on how to do so. From infection control in childcare to infection control in hospital food service, this can significantly reduce the bacteria that spreads in a business and can promote a safer environment. 

Handwashing alone is not enough to completely prevent cross-contamination in businesses. These facilities must have the appropriate hand soap and hand soap dispensers to guarantee that bacteria is removed from the skin effectively. Where handwashing may be limited due to the sink locations in a business, touch-free hand sanitisers can provide quick bacteria-eradicating solutions for staff. 

Common sources of cross-contamination: Surfaces 

Surfaces that remain uncleaned and unsanitised for periods can begin to harbour harmful bacteria. This is especially true if these surfaces come into contact with several external sources, such as people’s hands and food. Surfaces are also not limited to benches and tabletops. Countertops, cutting boards, utensils, and even handles on equipment, can be considered a surface. So, businesses mustn’t be just training their staff to clean tables. They need to consider the entire ecosystem of their premises. More than this, it’s essential that the right cleaning and sanitisation tools are used. 

Staff should employ the HYGEN Microfibre cloth range as it is specialised to trap pathogens and prevent bacteria from re-spreading immediately after cleaning. Though they can sanitise effectively without the use of chemicals, businesses should consider the surface they are working on and determine if a cleaning chemical can promise a higher level of cleanliness.

Common sources of cross-contamination: People 

All businesses, in some form or another, will have people. This may include their staff for office jobs or customers for service or product-based businesses. People can become a source of cross-contamination when sick, have open wounds or have come into contact with bacteria. Cross-contamination from person to person can be prevented through the right cleaning supplies and practices.

This is because cross-contamination acts like a cycle. If a surface contains harmful bacteria and a person comes into contact with it, they are now infected. So from office cleaning supplies to restaurant cleaning supplies, having the right tools in place can keep premises free from bacteria, and inversely, can stop people from passing infection on from one another. 

While sick days do slow production, it is also critical that business owners take the responsibility to send sick staff home to prevent the chances of bacteria spreading. Social distancing is also encouraged during cold and flu season. 

Common sources of cross-contamination: Food

As mentioned above, food can be one of the most common sources of cross-contamination. Food such as meat and some vegetables contain harmful bacteria. These are considered high-risk and must only be handled by those with the right certifications and training. 

Regardless of if staff are working in a restaurant, bar, hospital kitchen or another commercial kitchen, they should also take the time to dispose of scraps appropriately and in the correct waste bins. They should also ensure that food is placed in the correct storage containers as soon as it is out of use. These actions will reduce the chances that food begins piling up in a kitchen, which increases the risk of cross-contamination.


Rubbermaid Commercial Products is here to help 

At Rubbermaid Commercial Products, we offer a wide range of products to help businesses prevent cross-contamination, including cutting boards, food storage containers, and cleaning tools. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you keep your facility clean and safe.