Living Without Refrigeration: Avoiding Cross Contamination

Since we have no freezer or refrigerator on the homestead, we take a lot of steps to avoid food spoilage. Some of these have become so basic that we hardly notice we’re doing them. One key step we take is avoiding cross contamination. When we eat or prepare foods, we take simple precautions against mixing our foods and condiments.

Most people know better than to lick a knife or spoon, then return it to the jar of jam, peanut butter or mayonnaise. Doing so introduces germs, enzymes, and other contaminates into the jar, exposing the remaining contents to spoiling agents. However, few people think twice about using one utensil for multiple containers—dipping a knife into jam, then peanut butter, for instance. Even if this practice doesn’t lead to risk of food-poisoning, it does open the foods to the real possibility of faster spoilage.

This is why each container gets its own, clean utensil in our house. We even go so far as to make sure the utensil is wiped as clean as possible before we make an additional dip, so that bread crumbs won’t be left in a jar, for instance. When we’re done, we inspect briefly to make sure there has been no cross contamination, removing anything we find.

We’ll make exceptions for practical purposes. If we know a jar will be used up at a meal, we don’t worry so much about the utensils. This cuts down on the dirty dishes a bit!

This may seem tedious, perhaps even anal-retentive, but it really does help keep food fresh longer. For us it’s become second-nature, and is no trouble at all. We hardly notice it.

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