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Food Contamination and Foodborne Illness Prevention - Food Safety - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Food Contamination
and Foodborne Illness Prevention

Food becomes contaminated through a variety of mechanisms. Some things that can contribute to foodborne illness are:

Hand Washing

  • Pathogens can be introduced into food from infected humans who handle the food without thoroughly washing their hands.
  • These pathogens are thus transferred from trace amounts of fecal matter present on hands to the food.
  • Hand Hygiene: Wash Your Hands!
    Handwashing and Hand Hygiene information


  • Food and kitchen tools and surfaces may become contaminated from raw food products (i.e., meat and poultry).
  • Microbes can be transferred from one food to another by using the same knife, cutting board or other utensil without washing the surface or utensil in between uses.
  • A food that is fully cooked can become re-contaminated if it touches other raw foods or drippings from raw foods that contain pathogens.
  • Prevent Cross-Contamination
    Cross-contamination is the physical movement or transfer of harmful bacteria from one person, object or place to another.

Storage and Cooking Temperatures

  • Many pathogens need to multiply to a larger number before enough are present in food to cause disease.
  • In general, refrigeration or freezing prevents virtually all bacteria from growing.
  • If food is heated sufficiently, parasites, viruses and most bacteria are killed.
  • How Temperatures Affect Food
    Food Safety and Inspection Service United States Department of Agriculture. Attention: Non-MDH link

Contamination of Food by Animal Waste

Many foodborne microbes are present in healthy animals raised for food.

  • Meat and poultry may become contaminated during slaughter by small amounts of intestinal contents.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables can be contaminated if they are washed with water that is contaminated by animal manure or human sewage.
Updated Monday, 03-Oct-2022 10:41:53 CDT