How to Prevent Cross Contamination in a Walk in Refrigerator

eggs and milk image by Jeffrey Zalesny from

In the restaurant industry, walk-in refrigerators are the standard place to store refrigerated food items. Cross contamination is possible when foods that are ready to eat, such as fresh produce or cooked meats, come in contact with raw meats or spoiled foods or any contaminated surfaces or tools. Proper storage and separation of food, in addition to proper temperature control, is necessary in maintaining a walk-in refrigerator to prevent food-borne illness.

Sanitize all surfaces of the walk-in refrigerator. Food preparation surfaces and tools should also be thoroughly sanitized before beginning any food preparation as well as any storage containers used for storing food. When a storage container is emptied of one food item, it should be re-sanitized before being used again.

Divide fresh produce and food that is ready to eat from uncooked, animal-based foods like meats, seafood, and eggs. Raw, animal-derived foods should never come in contact with produce or food that will be consumed before being properly cooked.

Keep produce that is ready to eat separated from produce that needs to be washed. Regularly throw out any spoiled produce. Store all produce in a different section of the refrigerator away from any meat or dairy products, if possible. If that is not an option, store produce on shelves above any meat or dairy items.

Categorize and store meats according to the amount of heat necessary to properly cook them. Poultry items such as turkey and chicken should always be on the lowest shelf as they require the highest cooking temperature. Ground meats belong above poultry. Pork, venison and beef can be stored above ground meat. Fish can be stored along side or above whole meats.

Keep all food items securely covered when being stored. Covers should not be mixed from one food item to another without being properly sanitized first.