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Below you will find the link for an article which to my mind is of tremendous importance in the food hygiene world. Recent pioneering research has shown bacterial defence mechanisms at the disposal of the bacterium Salmonella Enterica which consufe the body’s defence mechanisms and causes them to recognize the bacterium as part of the “self”. These mechanisms have eluded scientists until now.

This gripping article raises many new questions. Is this a quality that the bacterium always had but remained undiscovered? Is it a new defence strategy that the bacterium has produced? Will there be new implications to the capability of this bacerium and is this the first of a new string of virulent bacterial qualities with which scientists will have to contend? Read the article by following the link below:

Article on Salmonella Enterica from Yale University

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One of the great pastimes of all time has to be the camping holiday. So many of us work at the same old job day in and day out going through the same old routines time and time again. We long for the day when we can hang up that apron, pack everything we need into a back pack and head out onto the open road. At least some of us do.

Camping holidays vary greatly. To some camping may be sleeping rough next to the camp fire with only the stars for a roof. To others camping may be a luxury safari in Kenya where everything is meticulously planned right down to the champagne on ice and after eight mint on the pillow. Whatever our dream camping holiday may be, we should remember that we are no longer in our natural environment. We can no longer say that we are entirely suited to living out in the open. The days when our distant ancestors were hunter gatherers are long gone and the level of natural immunity that they possessed we can only wish for.

When we are in an outdoor environment for an extended period of time we need to keep in mind that we take care of all of our needs in the same environment whereas in our homes we have created separate environments to cater for our various needs. When we are in the outdoor environment we actually have very limited control over it. The quality of water in a natural environment is what it is. We can do nothing to change it nor can we do much to deter insect vectors such as flies, ants, ticks and leeches, for example.

The only way we can control the effect that the environment has on us is to control the way we organize ourselves within it. The most important logistical problem that we face from a food hygiene aspect is the problem of water. We must have a safe source of water. The second most important problem that we face is having safe food to eat and the third most important problem that we have to contend with is how to take care of our personal hygiene needs without contaminating the area in which we have to live. Ideally these should be three separate areas. This will reduce the risks of cross contamination.

On a camping trip we may have only one source of water which we have to use for purposes of hygiene, cooking and drinking. This presents a challenge which needs to be addressed. Indeed, a great many cases of serious food and water poisoning originate on camping trips. I can vouch for this personally.

The four golden rule of food hygiene apply as much outdoors as they do indoors. Lets take a look at the four rules and see how to apply them successfully in the camp site scenario.

Rule 1. Buy food from a safe source.
In the camp site this means take food that will not perish. Sterilized packs of food can be bought in specialist outdoors shops which are identical to those used by special forces. Failing that take dried foods and foods that have been packed in small tin cans, tubes, concentrates etc. Avoid taking fresh meats and fish at all costs. Even cooked meat will have a very limited life and can only be taken into account as a packed lunch for the first day to be eaten within four hours of setting off. Fruit such as apples can be taken for several days provided they are washed properly, dried and wrapped in a plastic bag in individual portions. Eggs should be avoided also unless you can get them fresh on your trip. Boil them for no less than 10 minutes. Likewise some hard vegetables such as carrots can be taken for the first couple of days. Again it is best to peel them, wash them thoroughly, dry them and wrap them hermetically in a plastic bag. Do not eat local food on trips unless you are absolutely sure that the source is safe. If you are unsure about a water source it is better to drink fresh milk than drink the water. If you catch dysentery you may well loose more water than you can intake.

Rule 2.Prevent bacteria from entering your food.
Again, by having your food closed in hermetically sealed wrapping the possibility of contamination is greatly reduced. Do not open more than you need for each meal. Do not mix food which has been opened with closed food. Do not leave food for long periods unattended. Either eat it or cook it. Preferably cook it. When handling foods make sure that you are clean, particularly hands and nails. Do not use knives that have been used for any other purpose other than for food. Clean them thoroughly before use as well as after use. Likewise, clean your bowls, plates, cups, knives and forks before eating and drinking as well as directly after the meal. Once clean I recommend putting them into a clean plastic bag to avoid contamination while on the trail. Use only clean water for cooking. If you are unsure of the water source and you have no other use a camp carbon filtration system or use chlorine water purification tablets. The water won’t taste great but it will make it drinkable provided there are no chemical contaminates in it.

Rule 3. Prevent the multiplication of bacteria in your food.
As you may have no way of keeping your cold food at a correct cold temperature it is always wise to eat all your food hot. Don’t leave food laying around. If your food source is all but sterile to begin with you won’t have many worries about the multiplication of bacteria in your food. The secret is to open it and eat it or heat it up and eat it as soon as possible. By that I mean within twenty minutes of being cooked. With a bit of correct organization and compromise on five star cuisine one can all but eliminate this stage.

Rule 4. Destroy bacteria on utensils and work surfaces.
Once again prior organization is the order of the day. Always take some washing up liquid and Lysol or dettol hygiene spray or wipes. Wash all work surfaces thoroughly with soap and rinse with water followed by spraying it with Lysol spray or wiping with an anti bacterial wipe. Do this before and after use. As previously stated wash all eating utensils before and after use. After use spray or wipe with an anti bacterial product and wrap in a clean plastic bag. Seal it as hermetically as possible. Discard the plastic bag after opening it for the next use. Old wrapping should be collected in a trash bag and taken home with you.

Keep your dirty clothing as far away as possible from your eating utensils and food. Make a field toilet at least fifty paces away from your camp site. Even if this is a hole in the ground make sure that you cover your excretions with some of the soil or sand that you have dug from the hole. If you have it pour a little chemical sanitizer onto the soil to deter flies. Avoid camping where others have defecated in the open. Scour the area before choosing the location. Do not wash and brush your teeth in the same area that you go to the toilet or eat. Choose a place suitable for this. If you cant wash as well as you would like use hygienic wipes. Particularly use them after washing your hands after visiting the toilet.

Many people like to entertain the notion that one is allowed to be a bit more lax on a camping holiday. This is the pitfall that causes so many people to fall terribly ill when camping. Nothing could be further from the truth. A healthy and successful camping trip requires quite a high level of forethought, prior organization and planning and an appropriate level of self discipline without ruining the holiday by being overly fanatical and obsessive. This is not what I am advocating. If performed systematically all of my suggestions should take no more than a few minutes of your time around mealtimes and safeguard you against several unpleasant days in hospital and a lifetime’s bad memory.

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Most of us in the western world think of dysentery or “Shigella” as a disease of the summer months. Have you ever thought why? Firstly, is it true? Is dysentery a disease of the summer months?

Ok, now I’m going to confuse you a little more because the answer is yes and no. No because dysentery is not only a disease of the summer months and yes because it is mostly proliferated throughout the western world during the summer months, but why?

Dysentery is a disease that is spread via contaminated food and water. A lot of our summer produce is picked in warmer regions of the world where the water sourses osed to irrigate and to wash produce before packing may not be of the best quality and may contain many contaminants. In addition, workers who pick and pack produce may be carriers of certain types of dysentery causing bacteria.

Another major cause of dysentery during summer months for westerner’s is travelling to warmer climates. Whereas locals in many areas of the world may have developed immunities to many bacterial and protozoic species, all of these may be new for us. By being tempted to eat as the locals do we are often exposing ourselves to sources of food and water contamination.

Dysentery is caused by several major causes lets have a look at a couple of them.

Bacterial Dysentery. Bacterial dysentery is caused primarily by the bacterium Shigella dysenteriae. The disease it causes is called shigellosis. This bacterium is a gram negative, non motile, rod shaped, non spore forming facultative anaerobic species that produces a toxin called shiga toxin which is what causes the reaction which we know as dysentery.

Allow me to translate that mouthful of scientific jargon for you. Firstly Gram testing is a form of bacterial staining devised by a man called Mr. Gram which adheres to proteinous outer shells but not to fatty shells. As the vast majority of gram negative bacteria have a Lipopolysaccharide outer shell the dye will not stick, therefore the bacteria are classified as gram negative. Non motile means that they have no mechanism by which they can propel themselves within the medium they are in. Non spore forming means that the bacterium does not have the capability of reducing it’s structural size to permit it to survive periods when conditions are not suitable for bacterial growth, hibernating in short. Facultative anaerobic means that it can live in an oxygen rich environment or in one which is void of oxygen. It is usually when in the anaerobic phase that facultative bacteria will produce their toxins.

The symptoms of dysentery are high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, severe dehydration. Shega toxin is a potentially deadly toxin. Patients with dysentery may experience projectile diarrhoea and projectile vomiting simmultaneously. This is a very unpleasant condition which I have experienced personally. With this disease fluid intake is vital even if that means via infusion and a strict hygiene regeme is vital to rule out the possibility of re infection. Recovery usually takes anything between one to two weeks but in many areas of the world high mortality is common due to improper conditions with which to treat this condition. Mortality rate is particularly high in children and the elderly.

Amoebic Dysentery. This form of dysentery is also spread by the ingestion of contaminated food and water. It is caused by a cyst forming amoebic species. The disease is called intestinal amoebiasis.

This disease is most common in the developing world but not only. One case was reported in St. Petersburg which is quite close to the artic circle. Both bacterial and Ameobic Dysentery are prevelant in developing countries and often get confused. Most cases of travellers dysentary are in fact bacterial or viral in origin. Amoebic dysentery is a parasitical disorder and will not be effected by antibiotics. This form of dysentery may cause infection and enlargening of the liver and blood in stools. Other symptoms remain very much the same as in bacterial dysentery. Metronidazole is the preferred treatment for Amoebic Dysentaty.

Note. Not all species of amoebae are cyst forming.

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Scombroid fish poisoning is a toxic reaction caused by the decaying flesh of fish of the scombroid family. Fish of this family include bonito, tuna, sardines, anchovies, mahi,mahi, mackerel, king butterfly fish and kahawai.

All of these fish have dark flesh. Other types of fish may also be responsible for this reaction as well as the above mentioned. Scombroid fish contain a chemical substance called histadine within the meat. If the flesh of the fish reaches temperatures of above fifteen degrees celsius after being caught bacteria that are present in the skin of the fish convert the histadine in to scrombrotoxin. Market stalls are particularly susceptible to this through improper or no cooling facilities The primary component of scombrotoxin is another substance called histamine which causes the toxic reaction known as scombroid fish poisoning.

All forms of cooking have little or no effect in reducing the levels of histamine within an affected piece of fish even if all the bacteria that caused the histamine to be produced have been destroyed. Scombroid fish poisoning varies to other forms of fish poisoning in that the areas of flesh that were most decomposed will contain the highest levels of histamine and therefore only the people who eat from that particular area of flesh will feel ill. Others eating flesh from different areas of the same fish will feel no ill effect whatsoever.

Scombroid fish poisoning is not infectious and it is not an allergic reaction either. The person who was affected by this form of poisoning will have no ill effect from eating this type of fish or fish of the same family on future occasions provided it is caught fresh and stored in proper refrigerated conditions.

Symptoms
Symptoms will start to be felt in thirty minutes to one hour after eating the poisoned fish. Primary symptoms include warm flushes followed by the development of a profuse bright red rash starting on the neck or lower jaw and spreading to the lower abdominal area including the back. The rash is hot and itchy but unlike rashes in allergic reactions there is no swelling of the skin. Other symptoms may include any number or all of the following: a burning feeling in the mouth, a pounding headache, nausea, raised heart beat, dizziness, collapse caused by the lowering of the blood pressure, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Symptoms may persist for a number of hours after which they will normally subside. In some cases, particularly in children and the elderly symptoms may take longer to disappear.

Prevention of this disorder lies solely in the correct handling of fish. All fish should either be cooked promptly after being caught or refrigerated at a constant temperature at four degrees Celsius until used. Removal of the skin also helps to prevent formation of the toxin by reducing the number of bacteria around the flesh of the fish.

Treatment of this condition is usually quite simple. Oral anti histamine is usually enough to eleviate the symptoms. Expert medical advise should be saught and the patient should receive a full medical exam in an emergency unit to eliminate any complications.

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At the bottom of this article you will find a full video presentation in six parts on the subject of food hygiene.

Most of us spend a great deal of attention to cases of food poisoning outside the home. Stories of food poisoning incidents hit the news and cause a great deal of anxiety and public interest. Someone once told me that food scares in the media are a bit like stories of air crashes. Although tragic and dramatic they do not amount to many deaths compared to road accidents. The same is true for incidences of food poisoning. Most instances of food poisoning do occur in the home environment.

However it is only natural to have this  concern about food hygiene from without the home because the food we buy and bring into the home environment comes from without. It is for precisely this reason that we are naturally tuned into collecting as much information as possible about where the best sources of food are and which places to avoid.

Even if we do manage to locate excellent food sources there will always be some bacteria present on it. We can never get completely away from this fact. Bacteria are everywhere. What we are looking for is sources that have not been exposed to unnecessary sources of contamination. Taking this fact into to account, the reason for promptly storing our food becomes clear. We need to keep it as fresh as possible.

Restaurants are involved solely in the preparation of food and if they work along strict hygienic guidelines the risk of food contamination is minimal. On the other hand, the home kitchen serves many functions. If only I had a dollar for the number of times I saw muddy football boots in the kitchen sink. The multi functionality of the home kitchen allows for many different possibilities for the cross contamination of food.

The kitchen is the place where any number of family mishaps are solved and family members come to the kitchen to clean themselves when really they should be using the bathroom. Kids may have been playing with their pet rabbits or the dog and the man of the house may have been unblocking a drain. In both of these instances the family members in question may go to take a drink from the fridge without properly washing and changing clothes. We all know this happens. Any kind of contaminant could spill onto food,

Another reason for food poisoning in the home is the direct and indirect interaction between the kitchen area and animal.s By animals I mean cats, dogs, mice, rats, birds, cockroaches, ants, flies, spiders, moths and in some countries maybe lizards and geckos. All animal species carry a huge variety of bacteria on their skin and in the feces and urine. Animals should not be allowed to jump onto kitchen work surfaces or eat from human utensils. If you are working with food avoid touching animals. Food should be kept in air tight food containers to stop insects and rodents from getting at it and work surfaces must be kept spotlessly clean at all times and sterilized with an anti bacterial spray such as Lysol spray.

Not everybody cleans their fruit and vegetables before storing them but I do like to wash it with a fruit and vegetable detergent. The soil upon your produce may come from many different areas of the world and it is better to clean it off than to have exotic strains of bacteria infecting your whole fridge. The special detergents for fruit and vegetables should also remove any insecticide residue from your fruit.

A major source of food poisoning in the home is failure to clean the fridge regularly and to check the freshness of the produce within it. Your fridge is a humid environment in which air circulates. This means that bacteria and molds can spread throughout your fridge in aerosol and contaminate many different items in a very short space of time. Always check your stock for food spoilage.

Preparing barbecue food is another common source of food poisoning in the home. People often leave food in containers in hot conditions while they are cooking. This gives bacteria an opportunity to grow. Grilling raw chicken takes a very long time until it is cooked through to the bone and bacteria have ample time to proliferate throughout the food. It is always best to precook chicken drumsticks, wings and chunks and to grill them just for the added taste of the grill. Thick hot dogs and burgers are also problematic for grilling on the barbecue. It takes a very long time for the heat to penetrate throughout and more often than not people eat only partially cooked food.

Thawing meat and fish. It is absolutely amazing when one learns just how few people understand how to thaw food. In the age when we constantly want things to be ready in a flash it seems time wasting to wait a few hours for meat to thaw. The solution is generally the microwave or to thaw in hot water. Both of this areas create hot spots on the surface of the meat where bacteria can develop. Meat should be defrosted in cold water but my personal advice is to plan three days ahead and defrost meat in your fridge at four degrees Celsius and in a closed container.

Ground meat and eggs are particularly sensitive items in the home kitchen. Ground meat is animal muscle whose surface area has been greatly increased. This increase of surface area is excellent for bacterial development. if other contaminants such as unclean spices or herbs are added to it as well as raw eggs, bacteria will be provided with the ideal environment. Raw egg is another perfect culture medium for bacteria. Ground meat should not be left out for long periods. It should be mixed with the other ingredients as quickly as possible and either cooked or re refrigerated until cooking. Personally I try not to exceed twenty minutes outside of refrigerated conditions.

Failure to follow manufacturers instructions is also an area in which much food poisoning in the home. Many pre made products are not suitable for baking, especially meat products which have been breaded but not pre fried.  Always read manufacturers instructions if you are using a product for the first time. Adhere to warnings stated on packaging.

The last area of concern that I want to talk about is the cleaning of eating and cooking utensils and equipment. Wash everything in very hot water and washing up liquid. Clean all grease from ovens and ranges promptly. Store equipment in clean cupboards and replace dish cloths and dish towels after each task. Use all kitchen equipment only for the function that it was intended. Personal hygiene is the function of the bathroom not the kitchen. Train your family on how to use the kitchen correctly and the risks of food poisoning in the home will be greatly reduced.

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You will find the transcript of a recent article below in which US officials blatantly play down the dangers of  food poisoning by stating that overall although food poisoning is very unpleasant it does not cause many deaths.

I would like to stongly protest against this type of polotician’s manipulation of facts and misreprisentation of the function and the environmental importance of the food hygiene authorities. Yes, I agree that overall there are not so many deaths caused by food poisoning compared to some other forms of death. But is not heart attack brought on by the ingestion of too much salt in the diet a type of food safety issue? And is not every death of a person poisoned by food one too many? What kind of talk is this? Not to mention the suffering of hundreds of sick people. This is a pointless statement the purpose of which is merely to shift attention from the issue at hand to other areas of concern.

It is true that food hygiene inspectors are hard pressed to cover all their territory but their work is crucial because it keeps the awareness of the need for food hygiene in the mind’s eye of suppliers. If only consumers knew how many times they walked on a food hygiene knife edge during the course of their lives!

The potential for catastrophy in areas of food contamination is extreme. Bacteria such as Yerisinia, Anthrax,vibrio, tuberculosis, clostridium, listeria salmonella, e-coli, mycotoxins from molds, amoeba, virus’ and deadly parasites are but a hairs breath away from being put on out tables, literally. It doe’s not take much laxing of reglation enforcent in the area of food hygiene to reach a level where these bacteria will be commonly ingested. Unscrupulous people who are always on the look out for the chance to make a quick buck will exploit any and every opportunity which comes their way. If they get the chance.

Emplyees who do not receive sick days from their employer will do everythig they can to mask the fact that they are in no condition to work with food. People who are not educated in hygienic ways from their home environment will do everything to avoid washing hands, cleaning under nails, showering and brushing teeth simply because they hate being told what to do by others especially if their superiors are not part of their own cultural groups.

In addition I would not advise people, especially the elderly, to eat too much peanut butter!

I consider the comments made in this article to be highly irresponsible. See if you agree with me.

The Article

“ALBANY — After an outbreak that sickened hundreds and brought the peanut industry under the spotlight, officials addressed public concerns on food safety.
As a finale to the health department’s “Lunch and Learn” series, officials presented a presentation on prevention of food borne illnesses Thursday.

“Part of leading a healthy life, is handling food in a correct manner,” Dougherty County Environmental Health Director Jim Pericaud said.

Based on Thursday’s presentation, officials estimate that one is 130 times more likely to die from a heart attack than a food borne illness. Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 200 diseases are transmitted through food, with 76 million such cases occurring each year. Of those, 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die.

“Food poisoning does not have a high morality rate, but it’s not a pleasant occurrence,” Pericaud said.

In essence, the best advice is to practice basic food safety at home and to examine restaurant procedures. At restaurants, the advice given by Pericaud was to pay attention to food temperature, employee conduct (i.e. hand washing, hair restraints) and to inspect the dining room environment.

“If customer areas are not being kept clean, the kitchen is probably just as bad or worse,” Pericaud said.

Part of practicing food safety can also pertain to grocery shopping. The best method is to shop for the frozen food items last, to ensure they do not spoil, and to check the code dates on items as well as the general housekeeping of the store.

“You want (frozen food items) in the freezer until the last possible minute,” Pericaud said. “Don’t let that food spoil.”

At home, officials recommend people to practice proper thawing and cooking practices, serve food immediately after cooking, put leftovers away and to clean and sanitize food contact surfaces with a capful to a gallon of water worth of bleach.

In regards to the food that may be left behind, or even before the food is cooked in the first place, what makes a difference in how much bacteria is on the food comes down to temperature.

“Over time, anything you put in the refrigerator will grow bacteria,” he said. “If you put food in the freezer, that stops bacteria growth dead.”

For thawing in particular the microwave, the refrigerator, a cold stream of water or even putting food on the stove frozen all work as good methods. Although, before any of that is done, it is always best to conduct a practice common for preventing bacterial transmission — hand washing.

“The hands transmit a lot of bacteria,” Pericaud said. “Even if you wash your hands with regular soap you are going good.”

At the end of his presentation, Pericaud pulled out a peanut butter sandwich and began to eat it — which answered a question that has been on a number of minds after a salmonella scare sickened hundreds nationwide.

“Peanut butter is a very safe and nutritious type of food,” he said. “I would not stop eating peanut butter.”

Pericaud’s presentation wrapped up a four-day series which has been held in observance of National Public Health Week, and attracted more than 150 people. Given the attention it pulled, officials are confident that the series successfully carried out the health department’s mission.

“This goes back to our main areas of our work, which is prevention. Every year we have so many illnesses because of how food is handled,” Dougherty County Health Department Adult Health Director Vamella Lovett said. “(The series) was very successful. It’s outstanding people took the time to come out.”

Pericaud’s presentation was one of two held Thursday. The other offering was “Be Active: Walk, Run, Roll,” by David Cooper, health promotion coordinator for the Southwest Health District”.

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One job that people really fear doing most in commercial kitchens is cleaning the tough grease off equipment, drains and vents. Why? Because it nearly always involves the use of strong caustic soda based substances.

These substances cause injuries if not handled properly. They can cause blindness if they get into eyes, they can cause breathing problems and they can cause severe chemical burns to the skin. In addition they are a food safety hazard and there is always the risk that they will enter food that is in the work area.

I have used these substances for many years because we really had no other solutions to the cleaning challenges we had to deal with on a daily basis. I used to dread having to use these substances and yet, being the type of person I am I would do most of this work myself because I knew that my staff would cause themselves injury.

However, there is no longer a reason to use such potentially dangerous substances because we have now entered the era of the steam vapour cleaning system. Whereby formally you would spread degreasers onto a surface or scrape a surface for hours on end with a spatula now you can do the same work in a very short space of time using a steam vapour cleaning system.

In commercial kitchens not all work surfaces or cooking trays are stainless steel. It is better if they are but some products use aluminium to make a product less expensive. The advantage with the steam vapour cleaning system is that it cleans any surface, stainless steel, ceramic, aluminium, rubber, plastic, wood or Teflon.

It will clean, grease, grime, mould and lime. What’s more you don’t have to evacuate a twenty meter radius when using it. Once the hard grease and grime is off it becomes easy to maintain clean surfaces because very little time is needed for maintenance. In fact, the only chemical you will regularly need in your kitchen is ordinary washing up detergent. I strongly advise using a steam vapour cleaning system in all types of kitchens. Remember, the cleaner you kitchen is kept, the fewer vermin problems you will have and the easier it becomes to clean your kitchen the cleaner it will be kept.

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For many years my institutional kitchen operated in a very traditional way. We had a weekly menu and we would prepare each meal on and for the day it was intended. We would do essential preparations the day before after the day’s meal was closed. I was very proud of the variety and quality of the meals we put out. Very few five star hotels could match us for product quality, variety and taste.

One day an opportunity was presented to me. I was asked to prepare food for two other institutions the same size as my own. I knew that we were hard pressed to put out our own meal so how was I going to triple the work load. As things were my staff were going home at the end of their physical strength. It is a really hard days work to prepare food for one thousand five hundred people per day. I was going to have to think of a way of re organizing my whole operation without compromising quality.

One day I was reading a professional food industry magazine when I saw an advertisement for a new piece of equipment that looked, well, very much like an oven to be honest. The piece of equipment in question was called a blast chiller. The ad. claimed that the system could cool forty trays of food to twenty degrees in less than an hour. This claim intrigued me and so I contacted the company which was marketing the product.

After introductions the guy in the showroom said to me, “why waste time talking, lets go to see the product where it is being used every day”. I agreed at once, after all, actions speak louder than words.

After seeing the machine in action I knew that I was going to have a very personal relationship with a blast chiller. I knew that this one piece of equipment was the key to being able to triple my work load. The blast chiller was ordered and arrived one month later.

Without putting too much strain on the staff I had been making bigger batches of food and freezing them in my deep freeze. I knew that this was not ideal without my blast chiller but I had to have some inventory to be able to make the switch from cooking for 1500 people to cooking for over 4000 overnight.

I arranged a time for a staff meeting and told them how they would be working from then on. I told them that we would not be working as we had worked up to now. we would not be preparing meals for a daily deadline, instead we would be preparing stocks of food for the freezer. We would be reducing our daily task load from over eighteen Items per day to three of four. I told them that this would allow us to prepare bigger loads with fewer periods of transition from one task to another and we would be greatly reducing the risk of cross contamination by having fewer things flying around the kitchen.

What we would continue to prepare on a daily basis were soups, salads and things that couldn’t be frozen. All seemed interested in the new system but seemed a little puzzled. I asked them to trust me, they would not be working any harder and they would be given a wage raise for handling the extra volume.

Staff at the other two kitchens was cut to one third of what it previously was. It would be their job to receive the food the day before and to heat the meal up on the day. I bought small truck for transporting the food to the other kitchens. It was a truck with a cooler unit inside so that the food could be kept at a constant temperature of two degrees.

And so we started pumping our vast quantities of hot food which was rapidly cooled by the blast chiller and sent to one of the freezers within an two hours of coming out of the oven. To be able to do this operation successfully I took control of all the cooking trays and baking trays from the other kitchens We all used gastronorm trays so that did not present any problems. I did have to buy about 200 more but I had taken that into account and added the price to the cost of the food the others bought spread out over a two year period which I calculated to be the life expectancy of a cooking tray.

The system was working very well and the clients seemed very happy. Soon two more kitchens approached me to prepare food. I agreed to take on the extra work. I employed two more experienced members of staff and to tell you they truth we hardly felt the difference. I was now preparing food for upwards of seven thousand diners per day. The staff we now working very systematically, there was very little panic, everybody was smiling. What could be better.

My job was to formulate the recipes in such a way that diners would not feel that they were getting the same food all the time, to make sure all members of staff knew what they had to do, to make sure that the kitchen was cleaned before moving from an uncooked stage to a cooked stage and vise versa and to make sure that the end kitchens were handling and presenting the food correctly so that at each end dining room the presentation would look identical to all the other places.

And now I am going to tell you what the real key to running such a big operation is. Good technical staff. An operation like this needs  up keep and hitches do happen regularly. You need to be able to rely on your technical staff to solve problems quickly and professionally. I also aways have one oven more than I need. For this type of work I prefer to use a combi steamer oven. It is very versatile and is adaptable to many different cooking climates.

age-1238316_1920How many of you have been to somebody’s house for tea and been given a moldy piece of sponge cake or Danish pastry?

I must say that it has happened to me, not often, but it has happened. What do you do? Do you remove the mold and leave it on the side of the plate? Feed it to the dog, provided there is one? Cunningly stuff it behind the seat cushions? You’re in a jam and you know it. Those eyes are on you and they want to see your reaction to the cake that you know that you are going to have to force down, mold and all.

You just hope that the mold will not make you sick. You go back home without saying a word and take a couple of stiff shots of whiskey in the hope that the alcohol will kill the microorganisms that you were forced to ingest. Or, if you are particularly bold you might decide to say ” I think I’ll leave that, I think I saw a bit of mold on it”. In which case you will be brought another piece of moldy cake only this time the mold has been scraped off. Either way, you loose.

It always seems that the mold has done you no harm and after ringing the clinic for re assurance you decide to let the whole matter drop. I think most of us have been in that boat, right?

Molds are microscopic organisms which are connected to the fungus family. It has been common belief that molds are part of the plant kingdom but recent research is now questioning that assumption. More and more scientists are now considering molds to be a part of the animal kingdom. Moulds can produce mycotoxins in food.

It is possible, from a food aspect, to divide molds into three main groups. In the first group we have edible molds, in the second group we have moulds which are used for medicinal purposes and in the third group we have poisonous molds. If we were to put each of these categories into three different circles in the form of a triangle and then squash them together so that they merge into each other to an extent if one third we would get a true picture of how molds really act.

Some molds are edible within limits and if those limits are exceeded then the mold becomes toxic. Some molds are edible and yet have medicinal qualities, some are edible, medicinal which also have toxic qualities and some molds are toxic but have some medicinal qualities when used in the right way and in the right dosages.

We all know about the molds that are used in the cheese industry. Molds are used to deter the contamination of cheese by undesirable bacteria as well as for taste reasons. You can eat as much of this moldy cheese as you like and you will not be sick because of it.

I 1990 I remember that we had several cases of a very violent form of liver cancer that claimed the lives of quite a few people. This mold was found to be present in pistachio nuts that originated in Turkey. Most of the people who died from this mold were people who worked in kiosks which sold pistachios. This is one instance of a mold which can infest food which has quite lethal effects when ingested in sufficient quantity.

The rule of thumb concerning mold is that any form of mold that forms naturally on food should not be ingested. Throw the food out.Don’t even try to salvage part of the food. Molds used in cheese and other food sources such as truffles should only be eaten if you are sure the food source is safe. Medicinal molds such as antibiotics are to some extent out of your control but if you know that you have had an adverse reaction to these products in the past then do not take them. Inform your physician about your reaction and he will choose an alternate treatment.

Molds are one of the food hygiene issues which we come across in our daily lives. Some molds which we may inadvertently eat are hidden and by this I mean within various types of fruit and nuts, Apples often have mold in the center where the pips are. An apple should always be cut in half and inspected before eating. Nuts are often moldy also and should not be opened with your teeth. Always open the nut in such a way that allows you to inspect the nut before eating. Do not eat moldy, sunflower, pumpkin seeds or ground nuts. These molds are not good for you.

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Below is an article which is a continuation to the tragic food poisoning events that occurred in a Greyland market stall a few days ago.

The article states that the National environmental agency is prepared to get tougher on food business that lax food hygiene standards by revoking licences to do business. What is important to remember and seems to be lacking in the content of this article is that some offences of food hygiene are blatant breeches of public trust (licences are given by autorities which represent the public interest), knowingly placing members of the public at risk , disregard for legal process and crimanal neglegence. All of these are serious crimes and, in my opinion require much sterner punishment than the mere revoking of a licence. I would like to invite you to read the article and to see it you agree with my analysis.

It is my opinion that all food businesses should keep record of all purchaces of materials used in their business and that there be penalties for buying from any supplier who is not an authorized business operator himself. I believe that the othorities of markets should be placed in charge of checking these issues and that every market should have a resident and qualified round the clock governmental food hygiene inspector. The cost of this should come out of the taxes paid by the market stall operators.

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA), which is responsible for issuing licences for food stalls to operate, says it is satisfied with its current system.

Giving this assurance in the light of the Geylang Serai market food poisoning incident, NEA stressed that it is prepared to get tough with enforcement if unhygienic standards become more rampant.

The NEA manages 109 hawker centres with 5,600 cooked food stalls and another 9,000 market produce stalls.

To get a licence, food handlers have to attend and pass the basic food hygiene course and undergo the necessary medical screenings and inoculations.

Those above 35 years old also have to go through screening for tuberculosis.

But the agency noted an increasing number of hawkers have been issued tickets for food hygiene offences.

102 tickets were issued in 2006, 408 in 2007 and 730 last year.

Khoo Seow Poh, NEA’s director-general of public health, said: “For certain offences, currently we give a warning for a first offence. But if the situation of those kinds of offences becomes more rampant, then we may do away with the warning and straight away go for ticketing.”

Nineteen food stalls were suspended last year after they chalked up the maximum demerit points.

An average of four food poisoning incidents has been reported each year for the past three years. And at least three people were affected in each case.

Mr Khoo said: “As far as stallholders and stall assistants are concerned, it is their responsibility to make sure that the food that is served is safe, and on our part, following this incident, NEA will continue to work with stallholders and hawker associations to see how we can further improve and tighten hygiene regime.”

The NEA says the various hawker centre associations have devised a timetable for the spring cleaning procedures for the various food centres.

In fact spring cleaning is done at least two to three times a year.

Meanwhile NEA officers also check each individual stall at least once in six to eight weeks.

The Geylang Serai temporary market had its last round of spring cleaning last October.

But that did not get rid of the rats there.

Since last Friday, 41 rats have been killed by pest companies.

So is setting up a temporary market a good option?

Mr Khoo said: “It depends on the needs of the stallholders. If the upgrading period is long, some stallholders may need to make a livelihood to operate.

“Of course, NEA does provide them with vacant stalls for them to operate but some of them prefer to stay put to operate in the same area, because they want their regular customers to come back to them. We have to work with them to fulfil that.”

The new Geylang Serai market is expected to be ready by the end of this year.

© 2019 Food Hygiene Essentials