The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year 48 million people in the  U.S. get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. While there are a lot of causes, a major and preventable one is cross-contamination. But how to prevent cross-contamination? Read on to find out.

Healthcare Facilities: How to Prevent Cross-contamination

Cross-contamination happens when harmful microorganisms are transmitted to food or surfaces. These disease-causing germs can contaminate foods resulting in foodborne illness or food poisoning. It is common but costly and sometimes life-threatening—yet largely preventable.


Who is at risk?

Anyone can get sick of foodborne illness. Some people have a higher risk, such as those with weak immune systems, older people, young children, and pregnant women.


Where does cross-contamination occur?

Anywhere and anytime, it can happen, especially where germs, viruses, and bacteria thrive. Take note that healthcare facilities, like hospitals and clinics, are examples of countless bacterial cross-contamination risks. Furthermore, their kitchens can be a hotbed of cross-contamination opportunities.

The challenge is how to prevent cross-contamination in healthcare facilities. Before we dive deeper, consider that daily food handling can be subject to the three types of cross-contamination.


3 Types of Cross-Contamination

1. Food to food

Raw, undercooked, or unclean food can nurture numerous amounts of bacteria, which can harm the health if consumed.

2. Equipment to food

Microorganisms can survive for long periods on surfaces like countertops, utensils, or equipment. When not properly cleaned and unknowingly contaminated with harmful bacteria, it can transfer to food.

3. People to food 

Humans can readily transfer bacteria from their bodies or clothes to food. People transmit contaminants by:

  • Holding foods after using the toilet without properly washing hands
  • Touching raw meats and vegetables with unclean hands between tasks
  • Using an apron to wipe hands when handling different foods
  • Drying your hands with a towel already used in wiping countertops.  (use paper towels instead)


How to prevent cross-contamination in healthcare facilities?

Foodborne illness as a result of cross-contamination is dangerous. But, the good news is, we can prevent it. Below are some tips.

1. Encourage Proper Hand Hygiene among staff

Thoroughly wash hands always. Having clean hands is the most effective way of preventing infection from spreading. Gloves, masks, clean clothing, and other personal protective apparel, along with hand hygiene, are your first line of defense. Install alcohol-based hand sanitizer throughout the facility.

2. Staff must follow cleaning protocols especially, for high-touch areas

High-touch areas include:

  • Door handles
  • Bed rails
  • Bedside tables
  • Bathroom faucets
  • Toilet seats and flush handles
  • Telephones
  • Elevator buttons

3. Sanitize common areas regularly 

Kitchens, lounges, and cafeterias are areas where employees gather. Use the right cleaning and sanitation supplies for cleaning countertops, carpets, upholstery, and so on. We suggest using Ultraviolet (UV) light because it kills bacteria, viruses, fungus, and molds. It can substitute chemical disinfectants which are dangerous to health. It supplements cleaning to areas missed or not properly sanitized.

4. Follow food storage guidelines

Practice safe food handling. Additionally, properly store raw food in sealed containers. Segregate poultry, seafood, beef, etc.

5. Check updates for food recalls which are available online

Watch out for The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalls or alerts. When there is a reason to believe that a food or product may cause people to become ill, they take them out from the shelves.

For day-to-day prevention of cross-contamination, it’s recommended that healthcare facilities partner with an experienced environmental cleaning provider with a proven track record. Call the experts. Check out Colonial’s healthcare services today.