What must a food worker wear when working with ready-to-eat food to prevent cross contamination

Training Tip: Wearing Gloves for Food Safety

What must a food worker wear when working with ready-to-eat food to prevent cross contamination
Gloves are used very often in the food industry, especially when workers are preparing food. Unfortunately, some people don’t understand how to properly use gloves. Use these key points to help remind your food workers that gloves are an important step in serving safe food.

Wearing gloves can keep food safe

Over fifteen years ago, the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods concluded that bare hand contact with food contributes greatly to the transmission of foodborne illness. Employees can very easily shed viral pathogens if they are infected, and they can shed these pathogens even before they realize they are sick. Most of these pathogens have a low infective dose, meaning that people don’t have to ingest many of them before they start to get sick. The FDA decided that handwashing alone is not sufficient to prevent transmitting these pathogens. That’s why using gloves is so important! It provides another barrier between potentially dangerous pathogens and the food the worker is preparing. This is especially important when preparing foods that will not go through a cooking step before it reaches the customer.

Gloves aren’t magical

Gloves certainly are useful, but they are not magical. Many people have the mindset that if they have gloves on, the food they prepare will always be safe. However, gloves can become contaminated just as easily as a worker’s hands. If food workers don’t wash their hands before putting on gloves or don’t put gloves on properly, the gloves could be contaminated with dangerous pathogens. Workers must wash their hands before putting on a new pair of gloves, whenever they put on a new pair. Also, simply having gloves on does not mean the food being prepared will be protected from pathogens.

How often should food handlers change gloves?

Since gloves can become contaminated very easily, they must be changed often. They may only be used for one task and must be discarded if damaged or if the worker is interrupted during their task. If a worker is performing the same task, the gloves must be changed every four hours because that’s long enough for pathogens to multiply to dangerous levels. Anytime the gloves become contaminated, they must be changed. This includes if a worker simply touches a part of their exposed skin, or if they perform a task such as taking out the garbage. Don’t forget that they must wash their hands before putting on the new pair of gloves.

Gloves are a wonderful tool that can be used to protect customers from foodborne illness when used correctly. Gloves, just like bare hands, can be easily contaminated. Workers should remember to change their gloves often and wash their hands before putting on a new pair. Proper glove usage is a very important way to protect your customers from becoming sick from the food you serve. Use the above infographic and our Keep Food Safe Poster to visually remind food workers about important basic food safety principles and proper glove use. And food workers can use our Food Handler Training course to learn all the important food safety principles they need to know.

Share our infographic with others!

  • Download and print: Click on a size below to download and print out the infographic.
    • Poster size (8.5 in x 11 in)
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—Kylie Molen

This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Stand-Up Training: Preventing Food-to-Food Cross-Contamination

Help reinforce good food safety practices in your establishment through stand-up meetings. Use this training outline as a guide for your next meeting. Separating raw and ready-to-eat foods help prevent cross-contamination and foodborne illness.

Learning Objectives

You may choose to read these learning objectives with your employees as a part of the stand-up training.

At the end of this training, employees will able to:

  • Describe the dangers of contaminating ready-to-eat food with pathogens from raw food, especially raw meat
  • Identify situations and practices that could cause food-to-food cross-contamination
  • Demonstrate how to prevent cross-contamination during refrigeration
  • Demonstrate how to keep raw and ready-to-eat foods separate during preparation

The Facts

You may choose to read these facts with your employees as a part of the stand-up training.

  • Food-to-food cross-contamination occurs when food hazards (usually bacteria or viruses) pass from one food to another.
  • Cross-contamination is especially dangerous if germs from raw meat contaminate a food that will be served or sold to customers without being cooked—in other words, ready-to-eat food.
  • To prevent cross-contamination, keep raw and ready-to-eat foods separate throughout storage and preparation.
  • Food workers should clean and sanitize surfaces, equipment, and utensils between uses with different foods, especially after preparing raw meat.
  • Ready-to-eat foods should be stored on the highest shelves in the refrigerator. That way, juice from raw foods can’t drip down and contaminate the ready-to-eat food. Raw meats with lower minimum cooking temperatures, like beef and steak, should be stored above raw meats with higher minimum cooking temperatures, like poultry. This ensures that the contamination from any dripping juices will be cooked out.

Training Activities

Choose the activities that will be most beneficial for your employees. Modify them as needed to fit the training needs of your establishment.

Reflect on Cross-Contamination

Read: Cross-contamination can happen from food to food, surface to food, and person to food. Today we’re going to focus on food-to-food contamination. It is extremely dangerous to eat food contaminated by germs like Salmonella and E. coli, especially for customers with weak immune systems like young children and the elderly.

Discuss: What can you do to protect customers by preventing food-to-food cross-contamination? Could we improve our work processes to reduce cross-contamination risks?

Illustrate Cross-Contamination

Display: Show your employees a ready-to-eat food (like chopped fruit) and a piece of raw meat.

Discuss: What would happen if the two foods touched each other? How could this affect the safety of the food being prepared?

Illustrate: Either draw a picture or ask an employee to draw a picture representing the contamination that would transfer from one food to the other.

Make Sure Ready-to-Eat Foods are Safe

Watch: Ready-to-Eat Foods video

Discuss: What are some techniques to avoid contaminating ready-to-eat foods?

Review (if applicable): Emphasize the importance of cleaning and sanitizing food-contact surfaces between uses with raw and ready-to-eat foods. If you have separate equipment for preparing raw foods and ready-to-eat foods, review how to use this equipment with your employees.

Act (if applicable): If you do not have separate equipment for raw and ready-to-eat foods, consider designating separate equipment for this purpose. Alternatively, if feasible for your business, you could have your employees prepare raw and ready-to-eat foods at different times.

Store Foods on the Correct Fridge Shelves

Inspect: Enter the walk-in refrigerator with your employees.

Display (optional): Show your employees the Refrigerator Storage Chart. Hang this chart in your establishment for your employees to refer to later.

Discuss: Are ready-to-eat foods stored above raw meat? Are raw meats with lower cooking temperatures stored above raw meats with higher cooking temperatures?

Observe: If there are problems, supervise your employees as they correct them.

Following Up

Use these ideas to follow up with your employees and make sure they’re preventing food-to-food cross-contamination.

  1. Observe your employees as they prepare and store food to see if they take the necessary steps to prevent cross-contamination. How often do they clean and sanitize their work areas? Do you notice preparation areas where raw and ready-to-eat foods are being prepared in close proximity? Has food been stored correctly in the refrigerator? Assess whether food workers are applying your training.
  2. When you see room for improvement, approach your employees with a direct, positive attitude. Give employees constructive tips for preventing cross-contamination and praise employees who take consistent care to separate raw and ready-to-eat foods during preparation and storage.

Make sure your shift managers and supervisors can answer questions that other employees may have about preventing cross-contamination. Encourage employees to ask questions when they need help instead of guessing at the right answer. As needed, review this training with your employees.

Training Resources

The Ready-to-Eat Foods video defines ready-to-eat food and explains the potential consequences of contaminating these foods. View the Spanish version of this video: Alimentos Listos para Comer o Consumir.

Use the Refrigerator Storage Chart to remind your employees how ready-to-eat foods and raw meats should be organized in the refrigerator.

Did you use this stand-up training in your establishment? We’d love to get your feedback! Submit your comments through our five-minute survey.

What must a food worker wear when working with ready-to-eat food to prevent cross contamination

— Alyssa Erickson