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What is listeriosis?
Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Until several years ago it was thought that this bacteria only infected animals but it is now accepted that humans are also at risk from this disease. While many bacteria are generally seen to infect specific locations within the human body, Listeria may infect many different locations, such as the brain or the spinal cord membranes or the bloodstream.

Classification:
L. monocytogenes is a gram positive, non-spore forming, motile, facultatively anaerobic, rod shaped bacterium. It is catalase positive, oxidase negative, and expresses a Beta hemolysin which causes destruction of red blood cells. This bacterium exhibits characteristic tumbling motility when viewed with light microscopy. [6] Although L. monocytogenes is actively motile by means of peritrichous flagella at room temperature (20-25C), the organism does not synthesize flagella at body temperatures (37C). [7]

Who gets listeriosis?
Anyone can get this disease, but those at highest risk for serious illness from this bacterium are newborns, the elderly, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women. Healthy adults and children occasionally get infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill. Listeria Monocytogenes is classified as an intracellular paracite. This means that it invades and lives within cells of the body thereby managing to evade the body’s immune system. Infection by as few as 1000 individual bacteria is considered enough for the disease to take hold. When listeric meningitis occurs, the overall mortality may reach 70%; from septicemia 50%, from perinatal/neonatal infections greater than 80%. In infections during pregnancy, the mother usually survives.

When do Listeria infections occur?
Infections occur throughout the year. Although most cases occur sporadically, food-borne outbreaks of this disease do frequently occur. Poor food hygiene and poor personal hygiene conditions are responsible for many of the recently recorded outbrakes.

How is listeriosis spread?
Listeria bacteria are widely distributed in nature and can be found both in water and soil. Infected animals may also serve as sources of contamination. Unlike other organisms, Listeria can be spread through several different methods. Ingestion or food-borne transmission of the organism, such as through the ingestion of unpasteurized milk or by the eating of contaminated vegetables, is often a source of many cases. In newborn infections, the organism can be transmitted from mother to fetus in utero, or directly to the fetus at the time of birth through the contact of the fetus’ blood supply with that of the mothers. Direct contact with the organism can cause lesions on the skin.

What are the symptoms of listeriosis?
Because listeriosis can affect many different parts of the body, the symptoms vary. For meningoencephalitis, the onset can be sudden with fever, intense headache, nausea, vomiting and signs of meningeal irritation. In other body locations, various types of lesions at the site of infection are the primary symptom. In most cases, Listeria infection causes fever and influenza-like symptoms resembling a host of other illnesses.

How soon after exposure do symptoms of listeriosis appear?
Listeriosis has an extremely variable incubation period. It can range from 3 to seventy days, but symptoms usually will typically appear within a month of infection.

How is listeriosis diagnosed?
Specific laboratory tests are the only way to effectively identify this disease. Since many cases may be mild, the disease may be much more common than is realized.

Are there any unusual features of listeriosis?
Listeria infections are a significant risk for pregnant women, who may not experience obvious symptoms. Infection of the fetus can occur before delivery and can cause abortion as early as the second month of pregnancy, but more often in the fifth and six months. An infection later in pregnancy may cause exposure during birth, sometimes resulting in infection of the newborn child which may be fatal.

Does past infection with Listeria make a person immune?
Past infection does not appear to produce immunity.

What is the treatment for Listeria infection?
Several antibiotics are effective against this organism. Ampicillin, either on it’s own or in combination with other types of antibiotics, is frequently used.

What can be done to prevent the spread of Listeriosis?
Since the organism is widly distributed throughout nature, basic sanitary measures such as only using pasteurized dairy products, by only eating cooked meats and washing hands thoroughly prior to the preparation of foods offer the best protection against infection by this disease.

In addition, the following recommendations are for persons who are categorized to be at high risk of infection, such as pregnant women, the elderly and persons with compromised immune systems:

Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats, unless they are reheated until they are steaming hot.
Avoid getting the liquid from hot dog packages onto other foods sources, utensils, and food preparation surfaces, and remember to wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats, and deli meats.
Do not eat soft cheese products such as feta, Brie, and Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, or Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco, and Panela, unless they clearly state they are made from pasteurized milk written on the labelling of the product.
Do not eat chilled pâtés or meat spreads. Canned or shelf-stable pâtés and meat spreads can be eaten.
Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is contained in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna or mackerel, is most often labeled as “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky.” The fish is found in the refrigerator section or sold over deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens and supermarkets. Canned or shelf-stable smoked seafood may be eaten.

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There has always been a lot of speculation around the reason the humble pie was invented. Nowadays our adoration of this clever invention is liable to cloud the objective perspective of those who lived in bygone years. A pie is made of two main ingredient categories, 1) a crust and 2) a pie filling. Nowadays we can enjoy a vast array of crusts or pastries. Their flavors and textures vary to suit both the filling and the sensation that the pastry chef wants the diner to enjoy.

Man has know how to make dough for many thousands of years. Ever since man began to gather cereal crops he has experimented with the possibilities it presented him with. Whole grain bread, in one form or another has been a staple of many civilizations throughout history. Initially, it would have been the job of the women of the house to make bread in a small earthenware oven. As man moved from living in extended family groups or clans resources began to come under the control of chieftains.

This had several consequences for the common man. 1) he had to find ways of pooling resources in order to use fuel more efficiently, 2) if fuel was to be used at a central place somebody would have to be chosen to oversee the baking of the bread. 3) if people would have to pay for these services they would have to work more outside of the home to cover the cost, 4) if they mad less time to mill the grain somebody would have to undertake that function too. And so two important professions were born. The baker and the miller. Now I know that in explaining this process in this way it may seem that I mean that this happened overnight. No, this was a process that may have taken quite some time.

So now we have our bread being baked centrally. What has this got to do with pies you may ask. OK, I’m building up to it. A baker has to keep his oven very hot and at a constant temperature. Because of the design of the bakers oven it has the capacity to hold residual heat for a very long time, even after no more fuel is added. We have already defined heat as a resource that people of bygone eras could not let go to waste. When the baker was not using his oven for baking he would earn a bit more money by letting the women of the village put their pots of stew or hot pot into the oven to cook slowly overnight. This was a very clever idea that was used in many European villages until quite recently and maybe still is in some remote areas.

Now bakers had boys or apprentices working for them who did not get very much to eat. To see an oven full of stew pots simmering away in the oven would have been a type of torture for them and it is told of an evening they would sneak back into the bakery and sample a “little” from all the pots in the oven. The ladies who had given the cooking of their stews to the baker were very disconcerted to find that the level of their pot had reduced somewhat more than they had anticipated. They looked for a solution for this ongoing problem and eventually came up with the idea of wrapping a piece of dough around the rim of the pot and the lid. The pot was now effectively sealed and woe betide the bakers apprentice who broke into one of those seals.

During the evolution of mankind trial and error has led to a great number of observations and the very same ladies who used the bakers oven to cook their weekly stew would have undoubtedly noticed that the condition of the stew would have been better with the pastry seal left on than if it were removed. This would have led to the observation that factors leading to the spoilage of cooked food came from without rather than from within. Therefore, maintaining the state of separation from the environment was seen to preserve the “shelf life” of your stew or hot pot. In those days this was very important news indeed.

If pastry or a dough surround was accepted as being the secret of preventing the rapid spoilage of food, could it be possible to put a filling into pastry and cook it in an oven when one needed to make smaller more individual portions of food? Experimentation along these lines obviously happened. The original ides would have been to eat the filling and discard the pastry crust as if probably wasn’t designed for taste in those early days. As time went on it was obviously realized that to discard the crust was a waste of food resources and hence bakers and women alike began to experiment into ways of making the pastry an integral, edible and tasty part of the pie “experience”. The next time you eat a pie, give a thought for how important it’s development was to the growth of civilization as we know it and the development of insight into food hygiene.

animal-1239132_1920Add to Technorati FavoritesI would like to tell you about a case of food hygiene violation that I recently heard about. It occurred in England a few years ago. I have decided to write about this case, dispite the fact that it happened some time ago, because it shows very clearly the type of people that food hygiene inspectors have to contend with on an almost daily basis. This is a case of blatant disregard for authority and the safety and well being of the customers of the said business and the general public at large.

The case occurred in The city of Bradford which is in the county authority of West Yorkshire in England. Food hygiene and public health authorities received word that large Numbers of rats had been seen frequently behind a certain “greasy spoon” restaurant which was in the proprietorship of a gentleman of Asian origin. The restaurant in question sold cheap fried food to a local population which included English breakfasts, burgers, fish and chips, pies, baked beans and toasted sandwiches.

Bradford city inspectors decided to pay the business a spot visit in order to appraise the reports which they had received. On arrival the inspectors immediately saw that the report pertaining to the presence of large numbers of rats were indeed correct and on entering the premises they found that the kitchen area of the restaurant was in a very run down and unhygienic condition. All of the walls and cooking areas were coated in thick lawyers of congealed, stale grease. All the frying pans contained lawyers of lard which had not been changed for several days and showed evidence of rodent footprints sunken into the surface of the coagulated lard. Rodent and cockroach dropping were evident both on the floor and on shelves. Cockroaches had infested all equipment and storage spaces and the inspectors actually felt their feet sticking to the floor as they walked.

Out of date supplies were found in all areas of the kitchen, some showing signs of fermentation. Fridges had seemingly never been cleaned and all the shelving and walls of the fridges were covered in the remnants of previous uncleaned spillages. Draining boards and sinks were filthy and piles of unclean dishes filled the sinks.

When confronted about the state of the kitchen the owner of the restaurant simply said that everybody knows that “the dirtier the kitchen the better the food”. Shocked by this reply the inspectors wrote out an order closing the kitchen for a period of two weeks in which time the restaurant was to be brought up to a standard which conformed to food hygiene regulations. Notices were put into the windows informing the public that the restaurant was temporarily closed by order of the department of public health.

After the two weeks were up the health inspectors returned to the restaurant expecting the orders to have been carried out. To their utter bewilderment, not only did they find that absolutely nothing had been done but that the condition of the restaurant was actually much worse that it was at the previous inspection. When asked why he had taken no action to repair the state of his restaurant the proprietor answered that “it was contrary to the principles of his religion to receive orders from unbelievers”.

Shocked by this reply, the inspectors issued another writ of closure on the restaurant and gave him a summons to appear before a court of inquiry to answer the charges against him. After hearing the case the presiding judge ordered that the restaurant be permanently closed and that no restaurant should be re opened on that property. In addition the judge placed a lifetime ban upon the proprietor from ever opening a food business of any sort and issued a large fine upon the man.

We who concern ourselves with food hygiene and safety come across this type of case from time to time. The proprietor in question displayed blatant disregard for the health interests of his customers and the public at large. He violated the trust placed in him when he was awarded a licence to run a food business. He attempted to make cynical use of his religious beliefs to justify his actions and discriminated against the inspectors when he called them non believers. His crass, lazy and obstinate attitude worked against him and he got his just deserves.

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Food hygiene is a subject which is of concern to everybody in the world every day of their lives. To many people around the world the ability to find safe sources of food and water are very real questions of survival. Everybody has an interest in eating to maintain good health.

From a very early age we are taught that rancid food is bad for us and we posses physiological mechanisms which trigger very adverse reactions when we come across food which possesses qualities which do not suit those to which we recognizing as safe. Our parents teach us the guidelines which we use to appraise the edibility of our food and water.

Scientists have discovered that out prehistoric ancestors often scavenged for food but although they scavenged they still made sure that the food they ate was still quite fresh. Prehistoric man would follow carnivores as they hunted for food or would have followed other scavengers such as vultures which only eat fresh meat. By waiting for the carnivore to finish it’s meal from a safe distance primitive humans were able to quickly move in on a kill and eat the meat scraps that were still left on the bones and, seemingly, to eat the bone marrow inside the bones by developing the skill of crushing them with stones. Early man obviously competed with other scavengers for these spoils but smaller animals would have quickly learned that early man moved around with implements which could be used to attack. Namely the stones with which they split the bones to get at the bone marrow. This would have been the point in evolutions in which many animals learned to fear man.

By following carnivores to their kills early man would have been able to ensure that the meat he was eating was no more than a few hours old as as such was as fresh as was possible to hope for, given the circumstances of those primitive conditions. In order to ensure that he was second only to those top predators, man had to establish himself as second in the pecking order for food. Yet although primitive man was second only to the top predators in pecking order in one sense it would have been an absolute necessity to develop the skills necessary to control the environment around the kill zone for several reasons. The first reason the first reason would have obviously been to ensure personal safety. Another reason would have been having the ability to chase off the predator once he has eaten enough and was too tired to resist effectively. Yet another reason would have been to prevent the carcass being stolen by rival human tribes or other animal species. However one cannot dismiss that a major reason in establishing a high level of control around the kill zone and making a timely move in on the spoils would have been to ensure that they meat still left on the carcass was still fresh enough to eat. So this sense of timing would have been a key factor in the food hygiene regime of early man.

My personal estimation is that this time period would have been anything from one to six hours after the kill. We also know that prehistoric man had a much more robust immune system that we do today. Things that primitive man could eat to no ill effect would make us quite ill. The range of foods which he would have eaten was far more extensive that what we eat (with the possible exception of the Chinese). Cooking and sterilization of food would only become known to man after he attained the ability to make and control fire.

So from these facts we know that food hygiene, at a very basic level has always been a fundamental concern to mankind.

Question. Could the necessity to chase carnivores and other scavengers from a carcass have brought about the advent of designing and using weapons as we know then in more recent history? Could having an array of weapon choices have provided prehistoric man with the ability to further control a hunt scene by hunting alongside certain species of carnivores (such as canines) while both they and their quarry were distracted by the hunt? Could this possible situation have led to the eventual alliance between man and canine? Would the realization of the benefits of developing the skills needed to exploit such opportunities have played a key role in the evolutionary development of mankind and eventually lead to his gaining the ability of placing himself at the top of the animal kingdom hierarchy?

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Here’s a little extra for those cooking fanatics among you.

OK, lets get one thing straight, In Hungary goulash is a soup but in the west we have turned it into a main course dish similar to stew. When I make my goulash all my Hungarian friends think it’s a joke.
So let’s get down to making a really great (albeit Western) goulash.
Goulash, in non Hungarian terms is a combination of meat, Usually beef, carrots, potatoes, sauerkraut and spices in a thickish sauce.
The dish can be cooked in a pot on the stove or in a casserole dish in the oven.
The ingredients that you will need for goulash are fairly simple and straight forward. Here’s the list:
1) Cubes of Beef. I use number two or number ten cuts for goulash. They are less expensive cuts and quite good enough.
2) Potatoes, diced into large cubes
3) Carrots, cut into thickish rings.
4) Sauerkraut.
5) Onions, cubed and lightly fried.
6) Beef Bullion cubes.
7) Sweet Paprika powder.
8) Black pepper
9) Crushed Garlic.
10) Tomato Puree (or paste. optional)
11) Water
Quantities:
For a family of four to six people you will need about one kilogramme of beef. The content of potatoes and carrots use in the goulash should make up about two thirds of the quantity of the beef.
Method.
The first job is to sear the meat on all sides on a lightly oiled skillet. Once that’s done transfer the meat into your cooking pot.
at this stage add your sweet paprika, sprinkling about three teaspoons onto the meat while stirring over the flame.
You can now add about one small half teaspoon of black pepper, stirring onto the meat. Now add water until the meat is covered by about one inch of water. Heat until the pot is boiling and then turn the heat down so that the pot is simmering.
Add about one large cup of sauerkraut and stir in. After this add one large cup of chopped and lightly fried onions and one teaspoon of crushed garlic.
Leave the pot to cook now for about half an hour stirring only occasionally.
When the half hour is up check to see if the meat is tenderizing. Once the meat is starting to show signs of softening add a bullion cube and taste. You may need to add a little more depending on which type of bullion cubes you use.
Stir well and then add the potatoes and carrots. Continue to stir occasionally making sure that the ingredients do not stick to the bottom of the pot.
If you like a tomato taste to your goulash, use a little tomato puree to thicken the dish, add two to three teaspoons of tomato puree and stir in well.
Tomato paste is tart and for this reason we do not add it until the final stages of cooking because it causes the meet to toughen again and go rubbery. Additional cooking time will be needed to soften the meat.
Continue to cook the dish until all the ingredients are soft enough to eat but not breaking up.
If you like your goulash to have a little bite, you can add a few drops of tabasco.
The way that I thicken the sauce is to take about one teaspoon of corn flour mixed into a little water and to stir it into the boiling mixture. This way the cornflour gives the goulash a nice shiny appearance.
An optional extra that gives goulash a pleasant sweetish taste is to add some garden peas. I do this occasionally for a change.
In effect Goulash is an all in meal that has a combination of protein, carbohydrate and vegetables.
I like to serve goulash in a long oval bowl on a plate with a few slices of gorgeous, thick crusted caraway seed bread.
A strong red wine helps the goulash to go down a treat.

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Campylobacter is one of the most common bacterial causes of gastro intestinal diarrheal sickness in the United States of America. The vast majority of these cases occur as isolated and sporadic events and not as part of recognized epidemic like outbreaks. Ongoing surveillance by FoodNet demonstrates that about thirteen cases are diagnosed each year for each 100,000 persons in the population. Many more cases go undiagnosed or unreported, and campylobacteriosis is estimated to affect more than 2.4 million persons each year, or 0.8% of the total population of the USA. This disease is also very common in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Campylobacteriosis occurs far more frequently in the summer months than in the winter months. The organism is isolated from infants and young adults more frequently than from persons in other age groups and from males more frequently than females. Although Campylobacter does not commonly cause death, it has been estimated that approximately 124 persons with Campylobacter infections die each year in the USA.

Campylobacter organisms are spiral-shaped bacteria that can cause disease in humans and animals. Most human illness is caused by one species, called Campylobacter jejuni, but human illness can also be caused by other species. Campylobacter jejuni grows best at the body temperature of a bird, and seems to be well adapted to birds, who carry it without becoming ill. These bacteria are fragile. They cannot tolerate drying and can be killed by oxygen. They grow only in places with less oxygen than the amount in the atmosphere. Freezing reduces the number of Campylobacter bacteria on raw meat.

Almost all persons infected with Campylobacter recover without any specific treatment. Patients should drink extra fluids as long as the diarrhea lasts. In more severe cases, antibiotics such as erythromycin or a fluoroquinolone can be used, and can shorten the duration of symptoms if given early in the illness. Your doctor will decide whether antibiotics are necessary.

Most people who get campylobacteriosis make a complete recovery within two to five days after the onset of symptoms, although sometimes in more serious cases recovery can take up to 10 days. Rarely, Campylobacter infection results in long-term consequences. Some people may develop arthritis. Others may develop a rare disease called Guillain-Barré syndrome that affects the nerves of the body which begins several weeks after the onset diarrheal illness. This occurs when a person’s immune system is triggered to attack the body’s own nerves which results in temporary paralysis that lasts several weeks and usually requires an intensive care regime. It is estimated that approximately one in every 1,000 reported Campylobacter illnesses leads to Guillain-Barré syndrome. As many as 40% of Guillain-Barré syndrome cases in this country may be triggered by campylobacteriosis.Campylobacteriosis usually occurs in single, sporadic cases, but it can also occur in outbreaks, when a number of people become ill at one time. Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these poultry items. Infants may get the infection by contact with poultry meat wrappings in shopping carts. Outbreaks of Campylobacter are usually associated with unpasteurized milk or contaminated water. Animals can also be infected, and some people have acquired their infection from contact with the stool of infected dogs or cats. The organism is not usually spread from one person to another, but this can happen if the infected person is producing large volumes of diarrhea and/or vomit. A very small number of Campylobacter organisms (fewer than 500) can cause illness in humans. Even one drop of juice from raw chicken meat can infect a person. One way to become infected is to cut poultry meat on a chopping board, and then use the unwashed chopping board and knife or other utensils which came into contact with the raw meat to prepare vegetables or other raw or lightly cooked foods. The Campylobacter organisms from the raw meat can by these means spread to the other food products.

Many chicken flocks are infected with Campylobacter but may very well show no signs of illness. Campylobacter can be easily passed from bird to bird through a common water source or through contact with infected feces of other birds. When an infected bird is slaughtered, Campylobacter organisms can be transferred from the intestines to the meat. Likewise, the bacteria can infect a whole batch of birds via the presence of the bacteria being present on equipment and on the hands and/or the gloves of the slaughter house workers who do not wash hands between each bird they handle. In 2005, Campylobacter was present on 47% of raw chicken breasts tested through the FDA-NARMS Retail Food program. Campylobacter is also present in the giblets, especially the liver.

Unpasteurized milk can become contaminated if the cow has an infection with Campylobacter in her udder or milk which has been contaminated with manure. Surface water and mountain streams can become contaminated from infected feces from cows or wild birds. This infection is common in the developing world, and travelers to foreign countries are also at risk for becoming infected with Campylobacter.

1573Add to Technorati FavoritesI was asked to help solve a problem concerning cross contamination and product quality control in one of the smaller fruit juice factories in our area yesterday. The factory in question has a capacity to produce 72,000 liters of various fruit juices, fruit drinks and fruit nectar and ice teas. The factory basically consists of two departments, a mixing department and a bottling department. The products are either packed in glass bottles, plastic bottles or tetra pak cartons.

All of the concentrates are poured into the 18,000 liter vats via a barrel tipping machine and a suction device for rotoplasts. The concentrates are pumped through a pipe console which directs the concentrates in to one of four vats in the mixing department.

The factory had started producing tomato juice several months ago and since the onset of this production the company has been experiencing problems with the shelf life and color of products. They had tried every way they could imagine to clean the pipes leading into the tanks but to no avail. Tomato paste is very thick and viscose which makes it a difficult product to work with. Tomato paste tends to travel through pipes in pulses and because of this it coats the pipes evenly from the inside. Thinner and less solid substances such as caustic soda solution tends to run along the bottom of pipes and will only reach the top extremities for brief moments. This makes cleaning tomato paste particularly problematic.

I could smell the presence of tomato concentrate coming out of all of the pipes. There was no question that there was a grave danger of the tomato residue in the pipes fermenting. After a little thought this was my solution to the problem:

1) only to use two of the tanks for producing tomato paste. The effect this would have would be to reduce any possible risk by 50% from the outset.

2) to install separate feed pipes into those two tanks for tomato paste. This would leave the pipes for other products uncontaminated by tomato paste.

3) To dilute the tomato paste with 50% chilled water in a 500 liter mixing tank which was already on site.(2 degrees centigrade) prior to being pumped into the tanks. This would cause the concentrate to be less viscose and much easier to clean during the CIP process.

4)To dissemble and to clean the pump on the barrel tipping machine after every use.

5) To dissemble all pipes weekly and to immerse them in caustic soda solution.

6) To clean all pneumatic valves with a special industrial pipe cleaning brush from all directions.

At the end of the meeting with the department head, production manager, head of quality control and the general manager, all my suggestions were accepted and will be implemented within one working week. I will conduct a follow up check one month from today.

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Last Monday morning I received a phone call from the area superintendent of the department of public health. She told me that there was a steady stream of people falling sick due to eating food prepared by one of the large kitchens in our area. She continued to tell me that her department had been through the place with a fine tooth comb but still couldn’t find the source of the contamination. I arranged to meet them at the premises in question the following day to conduct an inspection.

To tell you the truth, I had a pretty good idea what I would be looking for because I had been to that particular kitchen several times in the past and had spotted a few things that seemed problematic. However, I had to make it seem as if I was earning my money so I decided that we would start somewhere quite far from the place that I suspected to be the problem.

We started by taking swabs of everything we saw and asked staff to provide swabs, blood, urine and stool samples. We checked the toilets of staff and diners alike and took swabs from all manner of cooking pots and trays,

I knew that this kitchen was using a type of bread basket within which to thaw meats and fish. The bread baskets were stacked one upon the other and left inside the two degree Celsius anti room of the freezer complex for up to four days. I also knew that the baskets were loaded onto a low level service trolley and brought up to the kitchen. I had known the chef of this kitchen for a number of years and I also knew that it was his practice to unload the baskets into plastic tubs after the lunch had gone out to the dining room. I always made a practice of doing this first thing in the morning before we started on the days chores.

What this meant was that the contents of the baskets were left to warm up from between seven o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock in the morning. This wasn’t a very good practice. Every chef has his ways but I knew that this was not the exact point I wanted to look at closely. What bothered me were the baskets themselves. I had a word with the chef and asked him to make an exception today and vacate the baskets earlier. What i notices was what I suspected. After rinsing the basket with water to remove the blood I saw that there was a light colored plaque stuck to the plastic. I took a scraper and saw that it came away fairly easily. I took scrapings from all the baskets used that day and then took the baskets to the aluminium washing machine to see what happened.

The man working on the machine proudly took a stack of five baskets and but them onto the machine and presses the operating handle down. The baskets disappeared into the machine for a few seconds and then came out. The worker informed me that this was a very efficient way of washing the baskets. he then placed them back onto the service trolley which had not been washed only sprayed with a water gun and placed the baskets next to the lift ready to by taken back down to the freezers.

The guy in charge of the freezer units the proceeded to re fill them with produce for another day. I had noticed several things, 1) the baskets had not been scrubbed with a stiff plastic brush of Brillo pad with detergent, 2) they had only been rinsed inside the machine which used high pressure but was ineffective due to the fact that the stacking of baskets inside the machine rendered the high pressure ineffective,3) chicken, beef, pork and fish had been set out to thaw in the same tower of eight baskets.

All of this led us to believe that we had quite possibly found the missing link of the food contamination dilemma. What had been happening was that liquid released from the thawing meat and fish had been dripping onto the plaque in the bottom of the baskets which in turn had been dripping onto the neat inside the baskets below. Then we discovered something else. The worker who had been handling the baskets went to work on the dish washing machine that cleaned the crockery and cutlery merely wiping his hands on a towel and removing his plastic apron before going onto the dish washing machine. It was his job to remove the clean cutlery off the dish washing machine. We clearly saw that he could be contaminating the cutlery.

All we needed to do now was to take the cultures we had taken back to the lab and have them checked out. These were the findings. Camphilobacter, Staph Aureus, Salmonella, e. coli, vibrio an listeria were all present in large quantities within the plaque which we removed from the bread baskets. Our findings were relayed to the company management with the following recommendations. All bread baskets to receive immediate soaking in caustic soda. 2) All bread baskets to be scrubbed individually before putting them onto the aluminium machine,3) all bread baskets to be put into the aluminium machine individually and 4) all bread baskets to receive a weekly soaking in caustic soda. 4) aluminium machine worker was to thoroughly wash his hands and change overalls before helping out anywhere else.

A re check will be conducted in two weeks from the day all the baskets were washed in caustic soda.

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Beriberi is a disease which is cause by the lack of vitamin B1 or thiamine. The disease is very common in areas in which the inhabitants are suffering from advances malnutrition due to famine or in areas where the diet mostly consists of pure carbohydrates such as white rice and cassava. This disease was particularly prevalent in the last century in Asia due to the reliance on white rice to make up the bulk of the diet. The typical distended stomach of children in famine regions or in regions where white rice makes up more than eighty percent of the diet is due to thiamine difiency.

Although beriberi is not a true food hygiene issue I have decided to talk about it because it does have direct relevance to certain food safety issues.

Executives of the Similac baby food corporation in Israel were taken to court for selling infant milk formula which was lacking vitamin B1 (thiamine). Due to the rarity of the disease in Israel doctors were baffled by the symptoms that the children displayed. the disease was eventually diagnosed by an intern who remembered seeing the symptoms during a section of her studies which she conducted outside of Israel. Once diagnosed the infants were given Thiamine Hydrochloride which helped most of the effected infants to recover within the period a few hours. Some infants died before and shortly after the error was diagnosed and some suffer from severe neurological disorders including partial paralysis.

The executives responsible for the distribution were prosecuted for criminal negligence in the Israeli courts. The Israeli prosecutors office claimed that the executives had prior knowledge to the fact the formula which they buy from Germany was devoid of thiamine. The case continues.

Vitamin B1 is found in a wide range of foodstuffs but particularly in whole grain bread, eggs, cereals, whole grain rice, meat, yeast, fruit, green vegetables and legumes. Lack of vitamin B1 can cause high levels of lactic acid and pyruvic acid to develop in the blood due to the fact that lack of the vitamin interferes with the aerobic metabolism of glucose by interfering with the breakdown of glucose molecules, causing the body to function on an anaerobic pathway.

Indications of beriberi include fatigue, lethargy and complications of the disease effect the nervous, muscular, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems. the milk of a mother who has thiamine deficiency often causes the child to suffer from the deficiency as well. Beriberi can also be found in chronic alcoholics ans sometimes in patients who have undergone gastric bypass.

Symptoms of the disease include severe weight loss, fatigue, emotional disturbances and sensory perception, weakness and pain in the limbs, edema (swelling of body tissues) and irregular heart rate. When cases reach the advanced stage heart failure and death are not uncommon.

Beriberi causes wasting of peripheral tissues and nerves which leads to partial paralysis. It can also leas to a lack of sensation in the skin tissues. Beriberi can be cured by giving the patient a thiamine rich diet but the return to functionality will be much slower than by administering thiamine via injection.

The likelihood of seeing beriberi in the western world is very slim but if you are feeding your baby on milk formula it is worth knowing something about the symptoms of this condition to prevent the terrible tragedy that happened in Israel from happening again.

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When visiting China or any other country with a Chinese orientated culture it can be very challenging to try some of the exotic culinary preparations on offer. People of Chinese origin eat just about anything that is a source of protein. Local delicacies may include insects, reptiles, amphibians, all types of seafood and shellfish, many types of mamals and just about anything else you can think of.

Food poisoning among adventurous western tourists is quite common simply because of the fact that they have no or little awareness of the things which a local can stomach but would be very problematic for them. The prospect of being able to come home and show family and friends pictures of yourself munching on freshly fried cockroaches may be appealing but it may also turn out to be a mistake you might regret for a very long time.

Locals may have a much higher resistance to various food toxins and allergens that you. Their immune systems may well recognize and destroy bacteria which would make you very sick. Remember, they have been exposed to these things all their lives whereas for you it is completely new.

Many good hotels will keep lists of hotels which they feel that it is safe for tourists to eat and in addition they may also have a residential general practitioner on duty or be able to call a reputable GP within a very short space of time.

A good rule of thumb when eating in Chinese restaurants is only to eat in respectable busy places. Only accept your food it it is sizzling hot and do not order anything which your stomach is not used to. Also, never accept fruit which has been peeled for you, always opt to peel it yourself. Never eat salads. In fact, there are no salads in Chinese cuisine. Is it a coincidence that they all eat their food piping hot? Food for thought!

If you do fall sick in China or South East Asia always go to a doctor who has been recommended to you by a respectable establishment. Street doctors are often not qualified by internationally recognized medical schools and may make bad mistakes in diagnosis. Also some doctors may recommend unnecessary treatment and prescribe drugs that you do not need and which may do you more harm than good. It is also most unadvised to go to traditional practitioners because many of the herbal remedies which they prescribe may be infected with mold and cause more harm than good.

Common sense is an absolute must when eating of receiving medical treatment in China. The Chinese government itself are now organizing themselves to bring in a national standards authority which will act upon identical lines to those practiced in Eu regulations and the American FDA. The Chinese government has fully accepted that to continue to operate as they have until now is contrary to the Chinese national interest and prosperity of the Chinese nation. Please, be careful what you eat in China.

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