How colour-coding can help prevent cross-contamination

How colour coding can help prevent cross-contamination
By Mike Brown
November 2, 2015

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an easy way to alert staff to the potential of cross-contamination? One that could also help cut down on the possibility of allergic reactions in your customers? It turns out that there is – and it has to do with the colour purple.

One of the most powerful tools to help protect against cross-contamination is the simple practice of colour coding. Let’s look at some of the benefits of using colour-coded equipment in a foodservice operation, starting with one that’s well-known to many: colour-coded cutting boards.

Imagine a busy kitchen with multiple workers doing various tasks: slicing bread, cutting chicken and chopping lettuce, all on cutting boards of no particular colour or type. Suddenly, a food worker needs to slice bread for a table. He runs into the kitchen, grabs the nearest available knife and cutting board, and slices the bread. What he didn’t know is that a chef had just cut a piece of raw fish on that same white cutting board. The cross-contamination of bacteria from the raw fish to the bread is imperceptible, but carries with it the risk of causing serious illness to an unsuspecting customer. Even the fish protein itself could be a danger if the customer has a fish allergy.

Colour-coded safety

Now, imagine a kitchen where every cutting board is a different colour, each associated with a particular food group, set by industry standards:

  • Red: raw meats
  • Yellow: raw poultry
  • Green: fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Blue: seafood
  • White: ready-to-eat foods (e.g., breads, pastries, cheese)
  • Brown: cooked animal protein
  • Purple: to alert staff to potential allergens

There is no magic in the colour designations. Rather, it’s up to operators to train staff in proper use, to help prevent cross-contamination between different foods. When a chef needs to cut an onion or lettuce for a sandwich, she will be looking for that green cutting board that everyone else is using for vegetables. And all staff will take care to slice bread on a white board, not the yellow board that another worker was using to cut raw chicken.

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