There are four keys to food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill. Last week, we talked all about the ways cleaning can prevent foodborne illness. This week, we’ll talk more about the second key: SEPARATE.

A major source of foodborne illness is cross-contamination. This can occur when pathogens (illness-causing bacteria, viruses, or parasites) are transferred from one food to another either from hands, utensils, surfaces, or improper storage – especially when working with raw meats and vegetables. Cross-contamination is easy to do if you’re not careful. When pathogens are transferred to foods that aren’t cooked or have lower cooking temperatures, they aren’t killed before the food is eaten, which can make you sick. Cooking, which we’ll discuss next week, is an important step that can help kill dangerous germs in food, but cooking temperature and time recommendations don’t always prevent cross-contamination.

One major culprit is the cutting board, especially when you use it to cut raw meats and then use it (without washing it) to cut your vegetables for your salad. Those vegetable have been cross-contaminated with Salmonella from the chicken via the cutting board, and can make your family and loved ones sick. Avoiding cross-contamination is essential to keep food safe and prevent foodborne illness.

The key is separation.

Here are the top tips to effectively separate foods at home and avoid cross-contamination :

Stay tuned for next week when we give more food safety tips and cover cooking. You can also check out our Food Safety and Environmental Services webpage here.