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All food preparation, be it in a factory, restaurant of home kitchen is prepared in stages. Raw material comes in at one end and a finished product comes out of the other end. As far as I am concerned, this makes the preparation of food a production line.

I have worked in the food industry for quite some time and I know how to apply the production line principle to any situation. It is this principle which I would like to write about today.

Every production line begins with choosing the raw materials you are going to work with. You need to identify who your suppliers will be and be very clear on why you want to work with them. Firstly, you should get to know their reputation for reliability. If you have a business to run you do not want to be left without supplies. Several questions need to be asked. Is the produce fresh? Is the quality good? Is it consistently good? Is the price fair? Is it delivered in the appropriate conditions as defined by law?

Once you have chosen your suppliers your next task is to ensure that products delivered are stored in a correct manner. Frozen produce goes straight to the freezers, keeping meat and fish separate from frozen vegetables and dough products. Fresh vegetables should be stored by themselves as should meat, fish and eggs. Dry foods such as pasta, spices, canned food, flour, salt, sugar, legumes, should all be stored in a dry pantry.

In all kitchens the morning should start with the cleaning of vegetables. Some kitchens may have machines to assist workers perform these tasks, other mostly smaller kitchens will do all this by hand. In the kitchens I worked in, we had a separate enclosed department to each function so we could continue to work on all stages of food preparation all day. Smaller kitchens are not lucky enough to have this luxury so food must be prepared in stages. I strongly advise that all staff wear disposable aprons while they are cleaning vegetables fish or poultry.

After the vegetables have been cleaned and stored away the kitchen should be thoroughly cleaned and prepared for the next stage. The next logical stage would be to prepare fish and any other type of meat or poultry that needs cleaning, cutting, deboning, mincing or any other form of initial preparation. Again, the kitchen should be thoroughly cleaned before moving onto the next stage.

Once all the initial preparation and cleaning has been finished we can now concentrate on the preparation of the food dishes themselves. Remember, when preparing your menu you will still be bringing potential elements of cross contamination into the kitchen. The most dangerous of these will include eggs, milk products, tin cans, bottles and spices. You must never put any of the items that you bring into the kitchen at this stage onto the work surfaces on which you are preparing food. Always keep them on a service trolley.  Remember to always wash your hands after you have touched any item which has not been cleaned during the initial preparation stages. Do not put anything like eggs directly into your food dish. Always open them into a small bowl to inspect them first taking out any egg shell that may have fallen into the egg..

Remember to implement food hygiene principles at all times. Keep meats away from salads. Do not prepare meat or fish together with vegetables that are to be served separately. Wash your hands and tools when moving from task to task.

Most of all clean your work area completely when you are plating your food. Make sure that plates are hot. Make sure that they have not come into contact with any stage of food preparation and most of all make sure that the person serving the food is both immaculately clean and in good health.

So in conclusion, the preparation of food should be undertaken in stages. Each stage should be completed and the work area cleaned before moving onto the next task. By doing this you are ensuring correct food hygiene procedure by avoiding cross contamination and by doing so bringing the risk of food poisoning down as far as is humanly possible. Knowledge, preparation, organization and attention to detail are the key to good food hygiene and quality food production. This is the job of the chef. A chef never compromises on correct food preparation procedure.

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The term organic has become deeply engrained upon the way we think of food.  Now, whenever I go to the supermarket and see organic this and that on the shelves I really have to think if I can afford the luxury. Organic food, by enlarge, is not cheap. Whenever I decide to pass by the organic product stand by and opt for the non organic alternative I get a little guilt trip for not buying the “better” option and I ask myself if am I giving my family second rate food?

Until the beginning of the last century there was simply no such thing as organic or non organic food. There was just produce. Granted, the “organic” people of today would rightly claim that everything back then was organic. Strictly speaking this was true but does that mean that everything you might have bought back then was of a consistantly superior quality?

People who grow organic food claim that they are staying true to nature by using no artificial fertilizers, pesticides of fungicides. Their claim is that modern technology has reduced the quality and taste of food making it detrimental to public health.

Vast corporate empires have sprung up around the organic food industry. Many of these industries have a very sincere mission statement and have a genuine intent to bring better quality food to their customers.

To say that the big corporations have the monopoly on the organic food market is very far from the truth. Wherever you will find a plot of land be it in the countryside, by a river,  canal bank, an allotment or a back garden, you will find people trying their hand at producing organic food.

Many non organic farmers will grow crops with absolutely intent on using any chemicals to insure a successful harvest unless they absolutely have to. After all, chemicals cost money and a lot of farmers are spendthrifts. Instead they will keep a trained an watchful eye on the developments  of the crop and only if they see that there is a danger of  ruininf  their crop will they intervene with the use of chemical or biological solutions to the problem.

Other farmers will maintain a regime in which they will adopt the policy of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and will spray crops with whatever they feel is necessary to within legal levels to ensure a successful harvest. When we think about crop spraying we should remember that farmers will not spray in such quantities that would render the process contrary to cost effective calculations. There is a definite limit to how much you can spray in financial terms.

Chemical technologies are developing all the time. Since the old days huge advances have been made in the area of chemicals. Such advances include chemicals which are designed to break down into harmless components after their active stage is finished. Other advances include time release mechanisms which lower the lethal dose (LD) rating of the chemical thus lessening it’s environmental effect. More and more essential oils from natural sources are being used as solutions to problems which were treated with dangerous chemicals not so many years ago.

Biological solutions are being discovered and implemented to solve age old issues all the time. The bad days of chemical agriculture are coming to and end by leaps and bounds.

Organic farming can be described as unprotected farming. If all goes well you will get a superb quality crop and both you and your customers are happy. However, what if one morning you were to wake up only to discover that your whole crop has been infected by some sort of microscopic invader. How do you save your crop? Do you stay true to your mission statement and take no intervention to save the crop through technological means or do you spray your crop and sell it through alternative channels?

This is a huge dilemma that many organic food producers find themselves in. I’m not going to give you the answer. I think that it is enough to leave you with the question. Many small organic food growers are complete amateurs and will readily spread manure of one kind or another around their crop. The effect of this is that many types of bacteria may be drawn up into the vegetable that you might eat. Many such mistakes are made out of enthusiasm and not through ill intent but from your perspective the plant is not fit for human consumption despite all the efforts to grow food organically.

Other small organic food producers may find that it is expensive and not cost effective to water their plants with fresh water. Instead they may set up a device to pump water from a river of a canal. This practice may also be undertaken by larger growers. Most river and canal water in the modern world contains chemicals and raw sewage. It is not fit for use on any type of food crop. In addition, growers may buy or rent land that is not suitable for the production of food for any number of reasons.

In fact, you have little or no knowledge on how your organic food was produced. If you see that the suppliers you get your produce from are ISO 9002 regulated, you can be sure that you are safe. Other suppliers may not be so trustworthy. The organic food market provides a tremendous marketing canopy for a vast number of food growers. I strongly suggest avoiding blind loyalty to anything bearing an organic food product label. Investigate your supplier before you commit yourself.    

Vast corporate empires have sprung up around the organic food industry. Many of these industries have a very sincere mission statement and have a genuine intent to bring better quality food to their customers.

To say that the big corporations have the monopoly on the organic food market is very far from the truth. Wherever you will find a plot of land be it in the countryside, by a river or canal bank, an allotment or a back garden, you will find people trying their hand at producing organic food.

Many non organic farmers will grow crops with no intent on using any chemicals to insure a successful harvest. Instead they will keep a trained an watchful eye on the developments  of the crop and only if they see that there is a danger of a specific element reducing or spoiling their crop will they intervene with the use of chemical or biological solutions to the problem.

Other farmers will maintain a regime in which they will adopt the policy of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and will spray crops with whatever they feel is necessary to within legal levels to ensure a successful harvest. When we think about crop spraying we should remember that farmers will not spray in quantities which would render the process contrary to cost effective calculations. There is a definite limit to how much you can spray in financial terms.

Chemical technologies are developing all the time. Since the old days huge advances have been made in the area of chemicals. Such advances include chemicals which are designed to break down into harmless residues after their active state is finished. Other advances include time release technologies which lower the lethal dose (LD) rating of the chemical. More and more essential oils from natural sources are being used as solutions to problems which were treated with dangerous chemicals not so many years ago.

Biological solutions are being discovered and implemented to solve age old issues all the time. The bad days of chemical agriculture are coming to and end by leaps and bounds.

Organic farming can be described as unprotected farming. If all goes well you will get a superb quality crop and both you and your customers are happy. However, what if one morning you were to wake up only to discover that your whole crop has been infected by some sort of microscopic invader? How do you save your crop? Do you stay true to your mission statement and take no intervention to save the crop through technological means or do you spray your crop and sell it through alternative channels?

This is a huge dilemma that many organic food producers find themselves in. I’m not going to give you the answer. I think that it is enough to leave you with the question.

Many small organic food growers are complete amateurs and will readily spread manure of one kind or another around their crop. The effect of this is that many types of bacteria may be drawn up into the vegetable that you might eat. Many such mistakes are made out of enthusiasm and not through ill intent but from your perspective the plant is not fit for human consumption despite all the efforts to grow food organically.

Other small organic food producers may find that it is expensive and not cost effective to water their plants with fresh water. Instead they may set up a device to pump water from a river of a canal. This practice may also be undertaken by larger growers. Most river and canal water in the modern world contains chemicals and raw sewage. It is not fit for use on any type of food crop. In addition, growers may buy or rent land that is not suitable for the production of food for any number of reasons.

In fact, you have little or no knowledge on how your organic food was produced. If you see that the suppliers you get your produce from are ISO 9002 regulated, you can be sure that you are safe. Other suppliers may not be so trustworthy. The organic food market provides a tremendous marketing canopy for a vast number of food growers. I strongly suggest avoiding blind loyalty to anything bearing an organic food product label. Investigate your supplier before you commit yourself.

fish-1149465_1920Add to Technorati FavoritesIn my previous article on shellfish and crustaceans I referred to instances of when seafood became contaminated once it was out of the sea. There are many forms of seafood poisoning and I would like to talk of one of the more problematic and undetectable forms of seafood poisoning that we encounter quite often.

In the field of food hygiene we must also look at the condition of food which has been caught in the wild. This includes the world’s fisheries industry. Wild sea food, particularly that which has been caught on or around coral reefs, is thought to be superior to sources which are grown by aquaculture technologies. Locus, red snapper, lobster and shrimp caught and served fresh from the coral reef are prized as delicacies.

All creatures that live on the coral reef are part of a food chain. Everybody is eaten by somebody else eventually. The food chain begins with single cell creatures such as plankton.  Some forms of plankton emit a toxin called “ciguatoxin”. The reaction to this toxin in humans is called “ciguatera”. (sig-ua-terra).

The plankton enters the food chain at the bottom end where it is eaten my small coral reef creatures. The small creatures are eaten by bigger ones until, finally we arrive at the sea creatures that we love to sea on our plates at the seafood restaurant.

It is important to stress that although the toxin is released into the flesh of the fish it has little or no effect upon them and they can continue to live out there lives and function quite well despite being infected by the toxin. The toxin tends to accumulate mostly in the liver, pancreas, gills and head but is also present in potentially problematic concentrations throughout the muscle tissue as well.

Cases of ciguatera are seen mostly where raw seafood flesh is served but it is important to stress that the toxin is not destroyed or neutralized by the cooking process nor is it destroyed by the powerful acid (HCl) which is present in our stomachs during the digestive process.

The reaction experienced by victims of ciguatera include all or most of the classic allergic reaction symptoms. Sufferers may experience sweating, dizziness, nausea, fainting, tightness of breath, burning of the mouth, itchiness, rashes, blurring of the vision and other symptoms.

This may sound frightening but although highly unpleasant, Ciguatera is very rarely fatal, especially if the victim arrives promptly to a place where he or she can receive modern medical treatment. Patients usually make a full recover within three to five days.

Some cases can be fatal but these cases are usually where people have severe medical conditions or other sensitivities that can be sparked off in conjunction with the symptoms of Ciguatera.

The only way to protect yourself is never to eat seafood in restaurants in locations that you have no prior knowledge of. Prefer to eat fish species from the open sea or freshwater sources. Eat or buy seafood from reputable businesses that have no previously reported incidences of Ciguatera.

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Can you tell which type of foods put you at risk more than others? Did you know that some types of fast foods are high risk for food poisoning? How can you tell which types of food it may be better to stay away from?

Over five percent of certain categories of fast foods have been tested positive for food contamination bacteria. Micro organisms such as Staphylococcus Aureus, salmonella and E Coli are regularly found in dishes such as kebabs, shwarma, salads and sauces for kebab and falafel.

Many factors could contribute to the contamination of these take away restaurant dishes. The first of these is the meat itself. Meat should be ground when it is almost thawed, but not quite. This will ensure that the temperature of the meat will stay low and prevent the multiplication  of bacteria. The grinding machine and all it’s parts must be kept spotlessly clean and the bowls into which the meat is collected must also be spotlessly clean.

A good business will buy only the best meat but the temptation of raising profit margins is always looming in the wings. Very often stall owners will do deals with second rate meat suppliers and buy meat which may put you at risk.

Another major factor in food contamination in fast food restaurants is personal hygiene. The staff who are employed by small fast food restaurants are often casual and not sufficiently trained in handling food and in keeping themselves clean. In addition, they eat the food they serve and by doing so they are exposing themselves to high risk food every day and as a consequence often suffer from stomach and intestinal complaints.

 

There are many possibilities for food contamination in and around the grinding machine. In commercial kitchens chefs are often hard pressed to do all the little jobs that need to be done. Cleaning is the most frequent example of this. Corners are often cut and one such “specific” corner is the cleaning of the grinding machine. Lets say a chef has just finished grinding chick peas to make falafel. Raw chickpeas are used for making falafel which means that various different types of environmental bacteria will be present on the chick peas. They have been soaked in water overnight so bacteria have had quite good conditions in which to multiply.

Having ground the chick peas the chef will want to get on with his next job which may be grinding meat for kebabs. Instead of taking the machine to pieces and washing it with soap and water, a lot of chefs will simply prefer to put a few onions or carrots through the machine to evacuate the last of the chickpeas and them proceed onto grinding meat. Liquid from the non sterile chickpeas will still be present in the machine.

The meat being ground will therefore be contaminated by the bacteria from the chickpeas. This represents a potentially dangerous situation. All machines must be thoroughly cleaned between jobs.

Meat should be stored in a fridge with an ambient temperature of four degrees Celsius. Herbs and spices should be added to the meat just before it is going to be cooked. Herbs and spices often contain a variety of bacteria which begin to be active once they are back in a damp environment. Sterilized herbs such as ones used in the cheese industry are safer than unsterilized. Quantities of meat shouldn’t be left uncooked and left for another day. Once mixed with all the ingredients, dishes such as kebabs, meatballs or meatloaf will afford bacteria a suitable environment in which to reproduce. If you must leave meat uncooked, freeze it. Try not to mix meat dishes by hand, always prefer a mixing machine or mixing paddle.

The more food is exposed to human skin the greater the risk of contamination. Restaurants by nature are hot places. They do not have the cold room or air conditioned facilities that exist in modern factories. Kebabs and meat balls are often left out at room temperature for up to three or four hours during the period they are being made. This will allow the temperature of the meat mixture to raise high enough to permit the reproduction of bacteria.

Another cause of meat contamination is cutting boards and chef’s knives. Chefs often use a knife and cutting boards for up to five hours without washing them. This is ample time for fifteen generations of bacteria to grow on the utensils and inside the meat that came into contact with the knife and board.

Chefs will often turn their board over instead of washing it when they move on to a new job. This practice is completely unsatisfactory because the underside of the board has been exposed to fluids and small solid particles from the previous task.

Salads that come with fast food dishes may not be properly washed. Likewise, chefs who are put in charge of making salads in fast food restaurants may be dealing with the raw vegetables before they have been cleaned and then move onto preparing the final stage of the salad without taking preventative measures to ensure that dirt from the raw vegetables which is on their hands and clothes won’t get into the final product. In short, you will never know if your salad dish is really safe to eat unless you know the level of food hygiene inside the kitchen intimately.

So, when you are finally handed your pita with the meat, salads and sauce, which have all been lavishly crushed together, is that the salad causes the meat to cool quickly to a temperature at which pathogenic bacteria thrive very well. What you have is a situation where all of the ingredients inside your pita are cross contaminating one another. Now can you see the true picture of potential disaster?

What’s more, the person who hands you your “mouth watering food” may handle money and by doing so transfer even more bacteria onto your food and into your body.

So now we only have the sauces to consider. Sauces are once of my favorite restaurant subjects. In a minute you will see why. When you buy a sauce from the supermarket you are either buying something that has been bottled at 100%C and cooled in the proper way. A process that makes the contents of the bottle sterile. The other method used is to put a legal amount of preservative into the sauce to prevent the reproduction of bacteria.

Many restaurants find that factory made sauces are too expensive and eat away at profit margins. They much prefer to instruct their chefs make their home made sauces and dressings. In many cases this means also making the mayonnaise that is an essential ingredient of many sauces. All sauces and dressings made in restaurants are not sterile and do not contain preservatives. If some restaurants do use preservatives, they do so illegally because they cannot procure a licence to use those types of chemicals.

Mayonnaise is made from egg and cooking oil. Often, the eggs that go into mayonnaise are not always as fresh as they might be. Many restaurants buy eggs that are close to their sell by date for a cheaper price. This means that the natural bacterial defence mechanism (lyzozome) within the egg will be close to the end of its effectiveness.

Mayonnaise that has no preservative in it must be kept in a fridge and used the same day it was made. Many chefs, however, prefer to make a larger quantity of mayonnaise and hope that it might last them up to a week.

Chefs often take mayonnaise out of the fridge to use to make a sauce or dressing and forget to put it back into the fridge for several hours. If  that wasn’t enough chefs will often scoop the mayonnaise out of the container with a spoon or ladle which has been in other materials prior to being put into the mayonnaise. This creates a whole chain of cross contamination possibilities.

The sauces themselves are put into small sauce boats or squeezy plastic bottles for the customer to use. The customer may use very little sauce on his or her food. Some restaurants will pour the leftover sauce back into the sauce container to cut costs. This sauce is no longer cold and it has been exposed to the restaurant’s environment. Cross contamination is very likely under these conditions. 

Sauces such as tahina are not as tart as other sauces which mean that they have a higher Ph. Substances with a Ph. closer to neutral will provide a better environment for bacterial growth than in tart sauces. Sauces should never be reused once served.  Also, home made sauces should never be taken out of refrigerated conditions for more than a few seconds. Likewise, sauces should never be made in large quantities.

A good method that will help you look out for tired and stale sauces is to to see if the sauce is separating. A freshly made sauce should not separate. It should have a nice even sheen to it and look homogenous. In a fresh sauce you should be able to smell the individual ingredients within it, in a stale sauce you will have trouble doing this.

So there you have it, contributing factor number four to a kebab that is unfit for human consumption. Remember, in as much as science and technology are advancing in leaps and bounds, it it quite ironic to have to admit that instances of food poisoning are on the increase from year to year despite better medicine and technologies in the food industry. The best way to protect yourself might be to be more particular about where you eat.  Personally, I have stopped eating in street restaurants altogether.

 

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Are you really sure that your favorite snacks are actually manufactured by the companies who’s names are on the wrapping?

Did you think that fake merchandise from the Far East only referred to wrist watches, CD’s, DVD’s and designer Labels?  If you have never thought about this question in depth, it may be time to do so. It has recently been discovered that many of the world’s favorite snacks are being fraudulently copied by various companies in the Far East.

World famous snacks are being produced to look and taste exactly the same as the original product.
Even “last sell my dates”, “dates of production”, company details and list of ingredients that must be printed by law on the wrapping of every product are carefully planned to coincide with the production details of the original companies’. Everything is planned right down to the last detail so as to elude the suspicions of government inspectors, retailers and consumers alike.

All of the companies that manufacture these fraudulent products are 100% sure that you the consumer will not be able to taste the difference between their fakes and the original product because they are identical in every way to the original.

Import companies all around the globe are tempted and lured by the prospect of lower prices and higher profit margins. Both the shops that sell the products and you the consumer are completely unaware of the conspiracy.  After all, you are getting a completely identical product in every way, right?

Wrong! In fact you are actually getting more than you paid for. The added ingredients come in the form of potentially dangerous  bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, listeria. These and other forms of microorganisms have been found in snacks that have been copied in the Far East. Tests to discover such activities have been carried  out by several government health authorities and by the quality control departments of the companies whose products have been copied and whose reputations have been damaged.

We also need to realize that international standards organizations such as ISO, GMP or HACCP will have nothing to do with companies that are faking the products of other reputable and responsible companies. This means that there is no control or information about how these products are produced. Hygiene standards are likely to be low and cleaning regimes may be waved.

Original manufacturers such as Nestle, Cadbury’s, Hershey’s and many other companies go to great length’s to ensure that you are buy a safe and hygienic product. They test all the ingredients that go into a product and they also test the all the parameters of the production of the final product. A large part of the cost of the product goes to cover the cost of quality control. With fake products, hygiene and quality may be the last thing on the mind of the manufacturer.

Reputable food companies now find that they now have to contend with this snack piracy on a continual basis. They are also finding that they, who had no part in the production of these imitation products, now have to continually check for fakes on shop shelves around the world and take responsibility for the correction of such infringes upon the reputation of their own company name.

In several countries, authorities were alerted to counterfeit snacks on the shelves of shops when complaints of food contamination were gathered from hospitals. After indentifying snacks as the cause importers were forced to recall all of the offending products and are now having to answer to legal allegations by national health and safety authorities. Several such companies now face loosing their import licenses, receiving hefty fines and being given periods of jail time.

Practices such as these are common in our day and age. Activities like these are responsible in part for the increase in the instances of food poisoning around the world.
Could this be the wake up call you have been waiting for regarding the quantity of snacks you eat?

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If you have ever been suspicious of food made in China your concerns may well have been just. Amid the growing trend of buying Chinese products may cause for concern among the industrialist ranks.

Recently the Sanlu milk company recalled their renowned baby milk formula due to large quantities of Melanin in the formula. Melanin in large doses is dangerous to human health and is mostly used in animal food products.

300,000 toddlers fell seriously sick and several died after being fed the Sanlu formula. In the wake of this tragedy new legislation is being introduced this June to force companies to only use appropriate and safe substances in human or animal food and then only if it proved absolutely necessary. The new supervisory body being set up to control China’s  growing food industry is being designed along similar lines to the American FDA.

Many say that this new body will be hard pushed in making a real difference in China’s food industry. Traditionally in China industrialists have been granted a great deal of leeway by the central government in areas of quality control. Now problems are mounting up at an alarming rate and the government can no longer turn a blind eye to industrial shenanigans. The government has said clearly that it considers it the responsibility of the companies in question to ensure food hygiene and safety. Chinese government authorities say that stiffer penalties will be introduced to rectify flaws in a food market which is  now difficult to contol.

In the wake of this scandal western regulatory bodies will have make more frequent random checks on foods imported from China.

asian-1238668_1920If you are like me you like shellfish in all forms, shapes and sizes. I just cant get enough shellfish, particularly shrimps, squid and lobster. Personally, I think that shellfish are one of the best food sources available. They are almost all protein, no fat and almost zero cholesterol. What could be better?

But wait. Before you let yourself dash off to the nearest seafood restaurant here are a few things that you should know about your favourite tasty morsel. Shellfish are one of the most dangerous of all forms of food. That’s right, you heard me well, one of the most dangerous and for several reasons.

Firstly, even if you are one hundred percent sure that the shellfish in question is completely fresh, there is still the question of seafood allergies to consider. Shellfish have one of the highest counts of allergic reaction rates per capita. The reason for this is precisely because shellfish are constituted primarily of protein. Most of our immune responce reacts to proteins and the reason for that is because our antibodies are themselves proteins and they are designed to seek out foreign invaders who’s skeletal walls are made of protein.

One of our antibodies, which is known as “I.G.E” causes very acute responses of the immune system. One such immune response is anafilactic shock. If a protein from a shellfish is recognized as an alien threat and becomes attached to I.G.E. antibodies, a potentially fatal chain of reactions may be set into effect.

So, say a person would like to try shellfish for the first time, how could he test if he has an allergic response? One simple option is to take a piece of the shellfish after it has been cooked and to rub it onto the inside of the lower lip. If you are allergic the lip will either swell up, tingle or produce a burning sensation. One may also feel internal side effects such as tightness of breath, facial swelling, excessive salivation,sweating and drop in blood pressure which may cause vomiting , dizziness or red rashes over extensive areas of the body. If that is the case, seek medical treatment immediately in a hospital and don’t go anywhere near shellfish, they are not for you.

Up to now I have talked about allergic reaction to the protein in fresh and untainted shellfish. There is, however a different kind of allergic reaction that one can get from shellfish. It may be of little consequence to the sufferer how he got his allergic reaction but the difference is important from medicinal and scientific perspectives. One may  suffer an allergic reaction to bacterial toxins and/or to waste products of bacteria within the shellfish itself. This is important because the person affected from such bacterial substances may not be allergic to shellfish at all per say and had it not been for the bacterial activity, no reaction would have been encountered at all.

The other danger concerning shellfish is that of bacterial infection. Shellfish are a very easy target for bacteria because a) they contain a high percentage of water and b) they are made up of protein which are an excellent source of food for many dangerous forms of bacteria such as the clostridium genus. Shellfish become contaminated up to ten times more quickly than most other forms of food.

This means that we need to take great care when dealing with shellfish. Shellfish are safest when bought frozen. The reason for this is  they are caught by trawler ships which are really floating factories and they are frozen and packed within minutes of being caught on production lines which are maintained at a constant ambient temperature of four degrees celcius. In conditions such as these the likelihood of contamination is as near to zero as it is possible to get.

So how do you prepare frozen shellfish? My advise is not to thaw frozen shellfish. Boil water and throw them into the boiling water. Cook them until  your crustaceans have changed color and all of them have turned pinky orange in color. Take them out of the water without cooling them at all and after allowing them to drain mix instantly with your pre cooked sauce, while the sauce is still boiling. Serve sizzling hot.

Never allow shellfish dishes to cool and I strongly advise against re heating shellfish dishes, including Paella. Keep it simple and safe, thats the key. In the case of frozen clams, mussels, winkels and such like, discard any that have not opened during the cooking process.

When buying fresh shellfish you should always ensure that the creatures are still alive. If they don’t move, don’t buy. Shells like clams should be closed and you should see them tighten the pressure of the closure when you tap the shell. Do not buy any that don’t react. Personally I like to buy directly from the fishing boats right after they have docked. That way I am one hundred percent sure that they are absolutely fresh. Definitely do not by anything that is not stocked in crushed ice.

One trick that a lot of merchants use and you should look out for is to splash fresh sea water over shellfish and other forms of fish. The reason they do this is so that the merchandise had a fresh sea smell that will make it more difficult for you to recognize other bad smells that might be present on fish and shellfish that has not been stored properly and has been outside for an extended period of time. Watch out for this. If you sea a bucket of water near a stand, you will now know it’s purpose.

Shellfish should be cooked in a sauce which is tart, peppered and salted to taste. All of these qualities will lower the Ph of the shellfish and lessen the risk of bacterial growth.  Avoid adding leaf herbs to shellfish because leaf herbs have bacteria on them which may contaminate your food.

All spices and herbs, if used, should be fried in oil at the beginning of the preparation of the sauce. This way, any bacteria in the spice or on the herb will be killed by the heat of the oil.

Follow these basic principles and you should stay out of shellfish hell.

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Below you will find a list of things to check when you go into a restaurant.  Restaurants vary in standard and we all have a tendency to make allowances and overlook ceratain bad points in the places we like to eat because there is something about particular establishments that keeps us coming back for more.

Many of these reasons are emotional and they tend to cloud the true picture of where and what we are eating. We may have family working at a certain restaurant or we may remember a romantic date we had there or it may have been highly recommended by a close friend. Whatever the reason we should try to keep a certain level of objectivity about where we eat. Go through the list below and see if you really look at the place you eat with a truly objective perspective.

Try to memorize as many of the points as you can and look for these points when you next go to your favorite eating house. See how high it scores. If the score is low you might want to consider finding somewhere new to eat out because you might well be risking your health.

 
Parking/Entrance
1. Was the parking lot clean?
Please select one: YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
1       Unsatisfactory
2       Satisfactory
3       Excellent 
 
2. Has the parking lot been maintained?
Please select one: YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
4       Unsatisfactory
5       Satisfactory
6       Excellent 
 
3. Was parking easily available?
Please select one: YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
7       Unsatisfactory
8       Satisfactory
9       Excellent 
 
4. How far did you have to walk from your car to the entrance?
Please select one of the ratings below:
1       Too Far
2       An acceptable distance
3       Not far
 
5. Is the parking lot and enterance lighted properly?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
1       No Lighting
2       Satisfactory
3       Well Lit

6) Were there any unpleasant smells outside or around the establishment?
Please pick an answer:
yes/no
1) slightly unpleasant
2) moderately unpleasant
3) very disagreeable
 
Inside Appearance and impressions.
 
1. What was your first general impression as you looked around the inside of the establishment?
Please select one of the ratings below:
10 Unsatisfactory
11 Satisfactory
12 Excellent
 
2. Were the tables cleaned and bussed properly?
Please select one of the ratings below:
13 Unsatisfactory
14 Satisfactory
15 Excellent
 
3. Were the floors clean?
Please select one of the ratings below:
16 Unsatisfactory
17 Satisfactory
18 Excellent
 
4. Were the windows clean?
Please select one: YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
19 Unsatisfactory
20 Satisfactory
21 Excellent
 
5. Were the counters clean?
Please select one. YES / NO
1-10, 10 being the best
q1     1
2       2
3       3
4       4
5       5
6       6
7       7
8       8
9       9
10 10
 
6. Were the napkins and straws stocked and orderly?
Please select one of the ratings below:
22 Unsatisfactory
23 Satisfactory
24 Excellent
 
7. Were the condiments stocked and in order?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
25 Unsatisfactory
26 Satisfactory
27 Excellent

8) Were there any unpleasant smells in the establishment?
Please pick an answer:
yes/no
1) hardly noticable
2) unpleasant
3) disagreeable
 
Customer Service
 
1. Were you greeted when you entered the establishment?
Please select one. YES / NO
 
2. Were the employees helpful and courteous?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please write any additional comments:
 
3. Were the employees friendly?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
1       Not Very Satisfactory
2       Very Satisfactory
 
4. Were the employees clean and dressed appropriately?
Please select one. YES / NO
1) Immaculate
2) acceptable
3) questionable
4) poor
 
 
5. Did the employees have nametags?
Please circle one. YES / NO 
 
 
Quality of Food
 
1. How was the quality of the food?
Please select one of the ratings below:
28 Unsatisfactory
29 Satisfactory
30 Excellent 
 
2. Was the hot food hot?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
tHot
1       Warm
2       Room temperature
3       Cold 
 
 
3. Was the cold food cold?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
4       Warm
5       Room temperature
6       Cold 
 
 
4. How was the presentation of the food?
Please select one of the ratings below:
31 Unsatisfactory
32 Satisfactory
33 Excellent

5. Were there any unpleasant smells coming from the food?
Please answer: yes/no 
 
Restrooms
 
1. Were the restrooms clean?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
34 Unsatisfactory
35 Satisfactory
36 Excellent

2. Were the paper products stocked in the restroom?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
37 Unsatisfactory
38 Satisfactory
39 Excellent
 
3. Was the soap/lotion dispenser stocked in the restroom?
Please select one YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
40 Unsatisfactory
41 Satisfactory
42 Excellent
 
4. Did the restrooms smell clean?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
43 Unsatisfactory
44 Satisfactory
45 Excellent

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WHO Finds E Coli in tomatoes in several palaces around the world, proving that vegetable are being grown on cheap sewer water.

People around the world may be at risk from tomatoes and other veg. grown on sewer water.  National health authorities who may be importing from certain countries will have to heighten their alert and inspect all vegetable imports, particularly tomatoes, cucumbers, citrus fruit, strawberries, melons and water melons, peppers and other types of staple veg. Water shortages and the heightened cost of fresh water in many regions is making crop growers  seek cheaper irrigation alternatives to avoid rising costs.

In view of this news, it may be wise for people travelling to warm arid climates or anywhere in the third world,  to avoid purchasing vegetables from open markets and roadside stands. Supermarket chains, hotels and established restaurants might be more careful about ruining there reputations through the purchase of contaminated foods.

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A new scheme is being implemented in the UK that will give consumers the opportunity to evaluate food hygiene standards in restaurants that they might be thinking of visiting.

Until now, information about food outlet businesses has not been privy to the general public. Authorities preferred to keep this information classified and under strict lock and key. This turn about in policy is now considered to be vital information for public “food” health & safety. The name “scores on doors” has been chosen for the scheme as scores will be given to food business and which will, hopefully, be an accurate indication to health and safety standards within any specific establishment.

 The scheme organizers also hope that this “points scored” scheme will give restaurants and other food service outlets an incentive to maintain better levels of food hygiene.

 The authority running the scheme is the FSA or the UK Food Standards Agency. Some local authorities, however, will be running their own variation of the scheme.

 The initial pilot scheme will include some 60 out of 400 local authorities within  the United Kingdom. Each of the various authorities will adopt  a different approach to the subject. It is hoped that by evaluating the different approaches adopted by the various authorities, the FSA will be able to judge which approach was most successful. It may, however, become clear that a variety of approaches may need to be adopted to best address the different areas of the suject of  food hygiene.

 At the end of the pilot trial it is hoped that the scheme will be adopted by all 400 local authorities within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the anual number of food poisoning cases will fall dramatically.

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