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Preventing cross-contamination

Although the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) came into force on January 15, 2019, certain requirements are being phased in over the following 12 to 30 months. For more information, refer to the SFCR timelines.

Introduction

What is cross-contamination?

It is the unintentional physical movement or transfer of a biological, chemical or physical hazard from a person, object or place to another.

Cross-contamination is often a contributing factor in outbreaks of foodborne illness.

Preventing cross-contamination is an important part of a Preventive Control Plan (PCP). Sources of cross-contamination are identified during the hazard analysis and control measures are put in place to prevent the cross-contamination of a food.

Purpose

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) created this document as guidance to help food businesses comply with the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.

It's your choice

You may use other guidance developed by provincial governments, industry associations, international partners or academic bodies as long as they can achieve the outcomes identified in the regulations. Always ensure that the guidance you choose is relevant for your particular business, product or products, and market requirements.

What is included

The document provides information on:

Refer to the Tell me more! section for additional sources of information that may help you with the prevention of cross-contamination.

What is not included

The information provided to reduce cross-contamination is not exhaustive. The hazards, potential for cross-contamination and procedures to prevent cross-contamination are unique for each business.

Roles and responsibilities

Food businesses are responsible for complying with the law. They demonstrate compliance by ensuring that the commodities and processes for which they are responsible meet regulatory requirements. If a written PCP is required, the food business develops a PCP with supporting documents, monitors and maintains evidence of its implementation, and verifies that all control measures are effective.

The CFIA verifies the compliance of a food business by conducting activities that include inspection, and surveillance. When non-compliance is identified, the CFIA takes appropriate compliance and enforcement actions.

Preventing cross-contamination

In order to prevent cross contamination, you have to first:

The document Conducting a hazard analysis provides guidance on the identification of hazards.

In addition to the control measures you implement to prevent hazards from contaminating a food, you should consider the factors that can result in cross-contamination of a food and apply good practices to prevent it.

Factors that can result in cross-contamination

Understanding how cross-contamination can occur is the best way to prevent cross-contamination.

The following provides examples of factors to consider that can result in cross-contamination.

Establishment or equipment design:

Cleaning/sanitizing:

Employee practices:

Storage

Quick tip

Look for direct and indirect points of contact between finished products, raw products, allergenic ingredients, packaging materials, waste, inedible products, non-food products, contaminated air, food contact surfaces, employees and visitors.

How to prevent cross-contamination

The following provides examples of practices that can help you prevent cross-contamination.

Premises

Equipment

Quick tip

Avoid cross connections that could result in one material contaminating another. For example: avoid cross connections between:

  • allergenic and non-allergenic ingredients
  • cleaning solutions and food or potable water
  • waste materials and food

In complex food manufacturing process designs, for example, mix proof valves are used to shut off, open, or change over pipe paths to guarantee there is no intermixing or cross-contamination of incompatible products at intersection points.

Process Design/Flow

Cleaning and Sanitation

Don't forget

Potential sources of cross-contamination include pumps, pipe connections, valves, and dead spots in product lines and or other "difficult to clean areas" where product, extraneous material, or residue from cleaning agents may persist.

Personnel and visitors

Best practice

Cross-contamination may result in food products not meeting applicable microbiological, chemical and physical standards. Monitor applicable microbiological, chemical and physical parameters to identify any cross-contamination in your food manufacturing processes.

Storage

Tell me more! - Further reading

The following references contain information that helps explain food safety controls, demonstrates how to develop them, and provides examples. CFIA is not responsible for the content of documents that are created by other government agencies or international sources.

CFIA references

Other references

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