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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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A new Hampshire camp was close while it was being checked for the cause of salmonella food poisoning. Children fell sick after eating a pudding that was contaminated with pathogenic salmonella bacteria. After all the negative publicity about salmonella in the media over the past couple of weeks, another salmonella outbreak was the last thing this well renowned camp needed.

Puddings and other deserts are quite common vectors of salmonella poisoning for several reasons. I would like to go over some of these reasons in this article to give you insight into the world of puddings and deserts.

Last courses are very often very minimally cooked. Sometimes they incorporate meringue which is basically just egg white beaten with sugar. Often last courses are not cooked to temperatures that exceed the boiling point of milk which is around 80 degrees Celsius. Some strains of resistant and virulent bacteria are very capable of withstanding such temperatures.

Camps are places which function only at certain times of the year and infrastructure of camp kitchens is not very sophisticated. Fridges may not function at required temperatures and food stores may be open to many different persons from within the camp. In addition, the staff which are hired by camps to do kitchen work might not be state of the art professionals, particularly in matters of food hygiene. If that were not enough and to cut staffing costs still further camp cooks are requested by management to work with casual workers who may have little if not no prior knowledge about the workings of a large kitchen.

Chefs are known to like to mix many ingredients by hand, particularly when using corn starch. Corn starch likes to coagulate when it comes into contact with liquid and many chefs like to feel that the consistency of a mixture is smooth. If the chef or one of his workers has not washed his hands properly after going to the toilet or after handling meat or fish (particularly chicken or turkey), bacteria will infest the desert mixture.

Another possibility for salmonella contamination is if the chef or one of his helpers failed to notice that eggs, milk of both used in the mixture for a pudding were not fit to be used. Often casual staff do not know the signs of contaminated milk or eggs.

Yet another possibility is that the chef made a pudding mixture early in the morning before he started to prepare meats and other foods that may contaminate a pudding mixture but failed to insure that it was refrigerated. On discovering the mistake he may have decided to take the chance that the mixture was not contaminated. These things do happen in many, many kitchens.

Another scenario could have been that staff cut corners and failed to wash cooking trays properly after a previous usage. These dirty dishes may have been exposed to cockroaches rats,cats or racoons and thus contained with salmonella. The final possibility that I would like to mention is that one or more of the ingredients other than eggs and milk that went into the pudding may have been infected with salmonella. After all, salmonella has been turning up all over the place recently. Why not on ingredients such as dried fruit? In the worst scenario several of these factors may have occurred simultaneously. If this was the case, it was a disaster waiting to happen.

Extra care must be taken when preparing food for the young, the elderly, pregnant women and the infirmed. These people are the most vulnerable and as fate would have it these groups are exposed to the highest percentage of cases of food contamination. As you can see from the breakdown I have given you, more than one factor may be to blame. Trouble starts when the approach is as fault. The only way to minimise food poisoning risk is meticulous attention to detail and correct practice at all levels of an operation like a camp.

kitchen-487973_1920A number of people have contacted me in request that I give some information about sterilizing cooking pots and other kitchen utensils. For most of us in the western world it is not absolutely necessary to sterilize pots as long as we make sure that we wash them thoroughly in very hot water and washing up detergent and a scrubbing pad. In other areas of the world or in situations where pots have been out in field conditions for any period of time, especially in areas where disease is prevalent, the need to continually sterilize pots may be a critical factor in the prevention of food contamination and the recontamination of sick people and the promotion of food hygiene in areas where it does not exist.
Firstly we need to look at the different types of cooking pots. The easiest type of kitchen cooking utensil to sterilize is stainless steel because we can clean it chemically without changing its properties. Other forms of pots present more problems. In Africa it is very common to cook in what, in some places, is called a “poike”. If I am not mistaken this is an Afrikaans word for a cast iron cooking pot. It is cast from a thick sheet of iron or steel and is designed to sit over an open fire. They come in many different sizes and are usually very heavy indeed. They have usually been treated with blackening so they have an outer covering. They also have a thick metal carrying handle that is attached to the rim of the pot across its diameter.
Another form of cooking pot is the aluminum pot. the advantages of aluminum are that it is lightweight and heats up very quickly. The disadvantages of aluminum are that it reacts to just about every form of chemical used to sterilize kitchen equipment. Even the acid in tomatoes, lemon and eggplants remove the essential oxidized layer on aluminum pots. The metal is relatively weak and handles usually fall off after a period of use.
Copper is another form of metal use to make cooking pots but utensils made from copper are normally expensive and in my opinion would not be used in areas of the world which require the sterilization of cooking equipment. In any case we can class it as having very similar properties to aluminum from a cleaning perspective.
Probably the oldest and most traditional way to sterilize all forms of cooking equipment is to boil them in boiling water. Adding some salt to the water will help in the disinfecting process and it will slightly increase the boiling temperature of the water and destroy more bacteria. The advantage of this system is that the pots and pans are immediately ready for use after sterilization. The disadvantages are that the equipment has to be 100% clean before going into the sterilization pot and they require a minimum of thirty minutes to boil before it is safe to take them out. Boiling does not ensure that all types of bacteria will be destroyed and some toxins can survive boiling.
Continuing with the theme of using water to sterilize kitchen equipment another efficient way to sterilize pots and pans is with steam. Steam is much hotter than water it will sterilize things that come into contact with it much more quickly. Using steam under pressure also removes baked on fats and other sediments. Steam treatment is OK for all types of metals but Steam is dangerous and requires that special equipment be worn before working with it safely and efficiently. This equipment should include thick plastic apron, thick plastic or neoprene gloves (not surgical gloves) and eye protection goggles. Like with water the advantage of steam is that equipment can be put straight back into use with no further treatment other than washing with a mild detergent and rinsing with water.
Caustic Soda is the next form of sterilization which I would like to talk about. Caustic Soda destroys all forms or organic material. Concentrated caustic soda needs to be diluted with water and heated to a temperature of no more than 80 degrees Celsius. Caustic soda breaks down at temperatures above 80 degrees Celsius and ceases to be effective.
Great care must be taken with caustic soda because it is very dangerous and can cause serious burns and blindness if it gets into your eyes. People using caustic soda should be properly trained and should also wear protective clothing which should include a thick plastic apron, thick neoprene gloves and a full industrial plastic face mask. This chemical is only suitable for stainless steel, plastic and glass. Other forms of metal will be affected by the chemical reaction of the soda. Aluminum may even be eaten away completely.
The use of caustic soda is also good for removing stubborn cooked on foods. The disadvantage of using soda is that it needs to be washed off dishes completely before they can be used again. Most big kitchen will use a high pressure tray washing machine to do this. If your water supply is not infected you may want to consider rinsing the pots in boiling water to avoid re contamination.
Caustic soda melts the fat in your skin if it spills onto the skin and it causes a slimy film on the surface of the skin until it is properly washed off with cold water. Wash until this feeling has completely gone. Caustic soda is also good for cleaning glass, ceramic and plastic utensils.
Yet another method of sterilizing kitchen equipment is to soak it in hot water and chlorine cleaning powder. Chlorine kitchen powder is also good for removing stubborn stains on ceramics, glass and Pyrex. This type of sterilization will react with aluminum and will remove the oxidized lawyer on the surface of the aluminum which is necessary to remove the toxicity of aluminum. Pots may become unusable if exposed to chlorine powder; therefore, I do not advise using chlorine powder to sterilize aluminum
This form of sterilization requires that equipment be soaked for about three to four hours for good results. Similarly to the use of chlorine must be washed off completely with a mild detergent before reusing treated equipment.

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Cholera is a disease of the human digestive system and it is passed from person to person through the drinking if infected water or eating food infected with the cholera bacteria. Cholera is caused by the bacterium Vibrio Cholerae which is a comma shaped gram negative bacteria.

Cholera is usually contracted when the feces of an infected person or persons comes into contact with food or a water supply but cholera has been know to exist in non feces infected brackish water. However cholera has also been know to be contracted by eating raw shellfish which can be infected with cholera. Some coastal areas including the Gulf of Mexico, the west African Coast, The east African Coastline, parts of the Brazilian coastline and parts of the South China Sea coastlines are renowned for having cholera infected shellfish. It is suspected that the pumping of raw sewage into the sea is responsible for this phenomenon.

Cholera is very common in areas which have poor treatment of sewage and drinking water. Many cases of cholera infection are very mild but other instances may be very severe. The disease is caused when the bacteria produce cholera toxin which inserts itself into the cell walls of the cells which line the small intestine. It acts as a very efficient chemical water pump which draws vast amounts of water into the lumen of the small intestine.

The bacterial infection which causes cholera is not very dangerous in itself on condition that the symptoms of the disease are well managed. It is the symptoms which present the danger. Persons infected with cholera have been know to be seriously dehydrated within one hour from the onset of diarrhoea, can go into shock within three hours and can die from severe dehydration in the space of twelve hour if they do not receive proper medical attention.

If properly managed the body can wash the disease out in the space of a few days. the main problem with cholera is re infection. If there is no clean water or uncontaminated food to be had the cycle continues. The main impact of cholera is on the elderly, the very young and people who may already be weakened by malnutrition or another disease. The main treatment which is now used to combat this disease is oral re hydration therapy. Re hydration should be started as soon as possible. In very severe cases a drip may be needed in addition to oral re hydration therapy. Medical staff who are used to treating this disease and in using this technique have saved many millions of lives especially in the developing world.

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Massive public concern hits the streets of Mexico, the USA and other Central American countries as over one million reported cases of Swine flu are reported in Mexico with over twenty reported deaths. Swine flu has been know to infect humans in the past, particularly pig handlers but it has never been considered a major threat until now. The virus has now been identified as having crossed the species barrier.

Apparently the virus has been able to form mutations within its capsular wall by including proteins associated with human and avian flu strains. This new mutation makes it challenging for the human bodies immune system to recognize the pathogen and neutralize it.

Although this new virus strain does cause concern, the statistics of exactly how destructive this virus is need to be properly analyzed. Questions which are being asked include, does twenty deaths out of one million people infected with the virus give cause for serious concern? How do these numbers compare with other more common human forms of the flu virus epidemics? Are there any variants from the norm regarding risk groups? Can this new virus strain also be carried by avian vectors?

With H5 N1 bird virus we learned that young healthy people were primarily at risk precisely because of their strong immune reaction. How does this new mutation compare with avian flu ? It is clear that the public need more information about the way that this new virus acts.

It is thought that the virus can be transmitted by a number of vectors including direct contact with pigs, direct contact with infected humans, (the ingestion of infected pork products is stated as not posing a risk because this virus is specific to the respiratory tract), direct or indirect contact with the feces of infected pigs or humans, aerosol spray from the respiratory passages of infected human vectors or contact with surfaces upon which the aerosol of infected humans landed. Water could also serve as a vector if it was contaminated with viral infected feces or respiratory aerosol from infected animals.

On the basis of experience gained from the avian flu and SARS outbreaks authorities are swinging into action to contain the epidemic to avoid the risk of another pandemic and to minimize the risk to citizens of both nations. Citizens in higher than normal risk areas are advised to remain calm but to minimize possible exposure sources where possible by using common sense and to report and to seek medical advice for all flu like symptoms experienced by themselves their family or friends. Washing of hands and avoiding contact with persons showing infection with flu symptoms is advised.

Health experts have been quoted after stating that with the end of the flu season drawing close, it is hoped that this epidemic will come to a swift end.

animal-1238375_1920Rodents can be a nightmare for all food businesses. It seems like they appear out of nowhere and disappear into thin air at random. Or do they? Environmental hygienists tell us that in the western world we are never more than ten feet away from a rat, on average. This is quite startling news because this means that rat concentrations may be higher than ever before in history. With the reported upsurge in the levels of reported food poisoning, particularly with reference to salmonella, e. coli and lysteria, the presence of rodents must be controlled professionally within food preparation areas.

In the days when sewers ran open in the middle of the streets of all towns to see rats scurrying around everywhere was no great thing. Nowadays, many of us get very fearful when we see a rat or mouse. It may be common to see rats around farm houses in the countryside but in urban domestic environments if a rat is seen indoors emergency calls will be made to the exterminator.

Rats are not fun to have around the house. They leave the smell of their urine in places they hide and the smell is very hard to get rid of. My house was once targeted by a rat when it was being renovated and we had a real job getting rid of the thing. It decided to set up shop in a washing machine of all places. The smell coming from the washing machine was so bad that I decided to buy a new one and have the old one taken away by the trash collectors.

Like any animal species rodents need an environment upon which they can thrive. They need warmth, food, water and a place to live. Rodents are social animals and do not like to live solitary lives. This means that any environment they decide to live in must be able to support several individuals.

It is our common belief that rodents will come because a slice of bread was left out or because there were a few crumbs that spilled on the floor. This notion is not quite true. Rodents need more than just a solitary piece of food.

Food businesses can be ideal places for rodents to thrive because they can find environments suitable to support whole colonies around food outlets. By using the term environment I relate to the following. Your premises, the neighbouring premises, the drainage system, your roof, the garbage collection area, your store rooms, other store rooms in your immediate area such as bakeries, butchers, vegetable stores, the condition of housing around your business and many other possible factors. All of these elements go towards creating an environment in which rodents can thrive.

There is one thing you must know about rodents. Anywhere they can squeeze their head through they can get their whole body through in a matter of a couple of seconds. Rats will swim through a drain water to trap to squeeze through the grate of a drain. They have no problem doing this.

Highly populated areas are good environments in which to open all sorts of food businesses but they are also perfect environments for rodents. As humans we have developed the ability to control environments and the critical point about pest control in food businesses is the control of the environment around your business.

This is no short order. As I have already suggested there are many factors which contribute to the environment in which your business is situated, from the perspective of a rat or mouse. Firstly there is the question of resident rodent infestation. Is your business situated upon an existing rodent problem? It is a lot harder to get rid of rodents that have inhabited your surroundings for decades than it is to prevent the infestation of rats and mice. This is due to the fact they have the advantage of knowing the terrain like the back of their little fury hands whereas you may be new to the lay of the land.

Infrastructure includes the following areas, drains and sewers, outside walls and piping, rendering, wall cavities, areas under roofs, ovens (especially ovens with insulation), cellars, dry store rooms, trash can areas, box collection areas, vegetation around your areas including trees, neighboring businesses of all types, boxes with stored equipment especially if it is not often used, linen areas, service cupboards and toilet areas.

The places that rodents can inhabit are countless. The key to controlling the presence of rodents in your business is as I have already said to control THEIR potential environment. You must think from the rodents perspective. You must control everything that goes on both in and around your business. Another good indicator to the presence of rats is the presence of cats. Cat are another pest that will inhabit environments which can support them. More often than not they share these environments quite happily with rats. Alley cats are not good ratters because they don’t need them for food. Why should they fight a rat if they have scraps to fed off?

Controlling the environment in which your business is situated is all about a working system and having the staff to do it. Chefs and waiters must not deal in pest control. They must never contaminate themselves by cleaning contaminated areas. All responsible businesses must hire general staff to make sure the area inside and outside the area is kept spotless at all times. Chefs waiters and sore workers must also insure that areas under their direct responsibility and hygiene level are kept hygienic and tidy at all times. Any restaurant team that finishes their shift just ten minutes before going home cannot clean the business properly. At least one hour of solid cleaning is required, twice daily at least, to keep a food preparation business environments clean and controlled from a vermin aspect.

Also, pest control contractors must make fortnightly visits to appraise the vermin presence in and around your business. Likewise drain pumps must be carried out at least once a month by an authorized contracting or municipal authority.

Only when you pay attention to every detail concerning the hygienic state in around your business can you be reasonably assured that you are protecting your customers against disease which is transmitted by rodents and other pests.

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Last week I received a phone call from the head office of a catering company that operates a number of large kitchens up and down the country. The voice at the other end of the line asked me to conduct an independent kitchen hygiene survey in one of their kitchens. I was asked to do a check which included inspecting the condition of the kitchen before and at the time of the arrival of the staff for work. The purpose of this check was to check the level of food hygiene awareness of the staff and the application of food hygiene training in practice, to see if the chef had conducted an adequate inspection of the kitchen before releasing the staff at the end of the shift and to look into the level of pest interaction with the kitchen overnight.

I have done this kind of check before. My job was to walk around the kitchen, dining room and storage areas of the kitchen and to submit a written report within two hours of finishing the inspection to the head office. If my finding were below a certain standard a Representative from head office would visit the kitchen in the early afternoon and hold an emergency meeting with the kitchen manager and the chef. The kitchen manager had been told of my scheduled visit at eleven o’clock on the evening before the visit.

I have to stress this is a kitchen which has had no serious cases of food poisoning in it’s entire history. Considering the findings of the report this may seem surprising to you. As I have stated before, most of us never really know that we are walking along a food contamination knife edge. I cannot allow you to see my written report due to client confidentiality but I can let you read my verbal notes which I recorded on my pocket recorder at the time of the inspection.

I arrived at the rear delivery ramp of the kitchen at five thirty in the morning. One half hour before the kitchen staff were due to arrive. The managers and two dining room workers were already on site.

The points will be numbered:
Kitchen Ramp:

1) Three pallets left unattended on the ramp.
2) Crows pecking sweet corn kernels on the fresh veg pallet.
3) Middle pallet containing fresh chicken legs, blood dripping onto ramp, flies starting to land on the boxes.
4) Vegetable fridge door left open.
5) Dry produce store room door left open.
6) Sparrows flying in and out of dry store room.
7) Cleaning chemicals left on ramp from day before.
8) Dirty service trolleys left on ramp from day before.
9) Water hose pipe left uncoiled from day before.
10) Empty produce boxes left on ramp from day before.

Kitchen:

11) Work surfaces dirty with water stains from day before, underside of tables dirty, table legs dirty. Dried raw chicken pieces found stuck on two table legs.
12) Shelves above work tables cluttered with disposable coffee cups. Cigarette buts inside coffee cups. Dirty plates, bowls and cutlery left on shelves. Dead flies on shelves. Shelves show no evidence of being cleaned.
13) Cobwebs in corners of ceilings.
14) Unclean linings in bread baskets.
15) Dirty cooking trays left in water overnight.
16) Dining room manager spraying degreaser onto barbecue grill vent in close proximity to food being set out for breakfast.
17) Egg trays on work surfaces in dining room and kitchen.
18) Unwashed parsley, dill and coriander put onto work table surface by kitchen worker.
19) Boxes of unwashed vegetables put onto work tables by kitchen staff.
20) Box of unwashed red peppers placed on top of chopping board.
21) Combi steamers greasy and with fallen food on oven floor.
22) Electronic thermoporters unclean. Water trays not emptied. Dirty water and thick layer of lime in water trays apparently not changed for several days.
23) Bad smell coming from inside dish washing machine. Filters not cleaned at the end of the night shift.
24) Fryer lids sticky and greasy.
25) Cockroaches coming out of fryer side panels after being turned on.
26) Small particles of food and stains evident on ceramic wall tiling behind cooking pots and fryers.
27) Stagnant water in cleaned plastic tubs. Tubs not inverted after washing.
28) Bread cutting machine left untidy with thick layer of crumbs let on the machine and floor after use.
29) Meat slicing machine not cleaned with soapAfter use. Fatty lawyer evident after previous day’s use.
30) Plastic tubs containing thawed raw meat left uncovered in fridge.
31) Condensed water dripping onto food trolleys from fridge ceiling.
32) Food trolleys in fridge not covered.
33) Fridge temperature gauge not working.
34) Evidence of mildew, liquid egg, and various sauces on fridge shelving.
35) Fridge floors wet and muddy.
36) Service trolleys not properly cleaned at the end of the day and not being cleaned between tasks.
37) Head Chef wearing very dirty trousers.
38) Staff smoking and drinking coffee in the kitchen.
39) Staff rest area not cleaned the day before, coffee cups and dirty eating plates and cutlery left on tables. Floor filthy. Cat present in staff eating and rest area.
40) Staff not wearing head covering and failing to wash hands before entering the kitchen area.
41) Disposable surgical gloves left on work surfaces after use.
42) No Liners in trash cans.
43) Boxes of frozen vegetables left on kitchen floor by store staff.
44) Rats seen in empty box collection cage.
45) Cats seen in most areas around kitchen and dining room.
46) Birds seen in Kitchen store and in dining room.
48) Blocked sink in vegetable cleaning area. No sign of technical staff for twenty minutes.
49) Meat left to thaw outside of fridge.

These were my findings within the period of forty five minutes of arriving in the catering kitchen. As you can well imagine my grading was not very favorable on that particular day. I know that the head chef and kitchen manager were place on probation in view of these findings. A repeat survey is to take place within a period of one month.

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How many times have your workers phoned in to you and said “boss, I got a virus. I can’t get off the toilet”? During the summer months especially it seems as though somebody is taken ill by a virus every week.

I usually asked them to bring me a doctors note and let it at that. Force major, what can you do? It seemed like I was the only one who never got sick. Could it be that responsibility is the best prophylactic medicine around? I always added “come straight in as soon as you feel well. Even though I knew that this was not the best thing to do. Soon you’ll understand why even if this statement confuses you right now.

The doctor usually always tells you the same thing. “yes you’ve caught that virus that’s been going around. Take something to reduce the fever, stay in bed for three days and drink plenty of water”. We all know that a virus is a variety micro organism that has the ability to infect us with several types of very unpleasant types of illness. The most common of these are upper respiratory tract infections and stomach infections. Other viruses which are less common in the western world due to attention to public hygiene issues include pneumonia, viral meningitis, viral pneumonia, hepatitis A, B and C, polio, several forms of zoonotic encephalitis, yellow fever, dengue fever, western Nile fever, rift valley fever, ebola disease, colorado tick fever, machupo, junin, rabies, small pox, various forms of cancer causing viruses and HIV to name but a few. All of these are very serious life threatening illnesses. Some viruses produce conditions which are considered mildly uncomfortable such as mouth ulcers, foot and mouth disease, cow pox and common warts, to mention just a few. There is a whole other range of diseases that are termed as childhood diseases which are also of viral origin. These viral conditions include measels, german measels chicken pox, mumps, and whooping cough. Some of these are included in inoculations against the contraction of dangerous disease during childhood and some are left to the course of nature. Viruses also impact animals and plant species with often serious financial impact. Dog parvo virus is the most resilient of all viruses.

Scientists were divided in their opinion on whether it was correct to classify viruses as living organisms because they have no metabolic function as such. Viruses in simplistic terms are made up of a proteinous outer shell, proteinous genome material, enzymes and sometimes lipopolysaccharide (fatty) outer structures . All viruses are host specific but are not only host specific but are parasitical only to specific organs of the host. Rabies virus travels only along the tissue of the nervous system and will not attack the cells lining the intestine or the blood tissues. The virus that causes the common cold will not cause hepatitis and so on.

The following clip explains the path of avian flue infection. Remember that although viruses all have slightly different ways of getting into and out of living host cells the bottom line is that they all have the same objective and basically do the same thing.

All viruses enter the body via a vector. That vector could be organic material contaminated with feces, it could be via infected water or it could be introduced into a recipient body by body fluids such as saliva or sperm or it can be transferred via mosquitos or ticks. A virus is a really just a mechanism for replicating itself and it does this in the following manner. All viral invaders must breach the cell wall of the host cell and empty the contents of the viral body into the host cell. After doing this the virus activates its genetic material, each in it’s own way, to insert DNA or RNA into the DNA or RNA of the recipient which it then uses as a template to manufacture duplicate strings of DNA. The strings of DNA are then used to transcribe a code for the production of proteins which will be used to manufacture duplicate viruses within the recipient cell.

The recipient cell will cease to function as a useful cell of the body which may or may not stimulate an immunological response by the organism. When the cell wall has swollen to proportions it can no longer tolerate it will burst and the newly manufactured viruses within will flood into the organism and infect more cells. The condition in which the body is swamped with these newly released viruses is known as viremia. During the period in which the virus is initially infecting the body there is usually no immunological response. This is due to the fact that all the process is being carried out within the cell and the immune response of the body is slow to pick up on this in the initial stages because viruses can go undetected by immune cells if they have undergone some form of mutation which makes them apperar differnt to the imunological memory cells.

When the body starts to be flooded with newly developed viruses the immune response will be triggered and the host and symptoms will appear. The period of time between infection and the manifestation of symptoms can be anything between several hours in some cases to several years in the case of some retro viruses such as the HIV virus. Some viruses will insert their DNA into the DNA structure of the host and encode it to remain dormant. All of us have a certain percentage of dormant viral DNA mixed in with our own DNA. This is termed as Junk DNA. Only under very special conditions will this DNA be activate to begin the manufacture of replica viruses.

Viruses that infect the small intestine typically target the epithelial cells which coat the villi. When this happens the affected areas of the intestine will cease to absorb nutrients from the food. The food will remain in liquid form to which the liquid content of the cells is added on rupturing. In addition more liquid from the non specific immune system is added and the food is evacuated as what we recognize as diarrhea. Viral intestinal disorders can be accompanied with vomiting, nausea, headache and increased temperature. All of these symptoms are part of the bodies strategy to clear itself of the viral invader.

The swelling of the cell wall and its bursting under the pressure of the newly developed virus within is known as Lysis. Lysis is the destruction of the cell due to internal causes. During this process ulcerated and painful lesions may be formed in infected tissue. When these burst the viruses are released into the blood stream causing viremia. This destruction of cellular tissue can be accompanies by the presence of blood in stools. Loss of blood in stools is a case for medical supervision because the amount of blood lost may well have to be replaced by blood transfusion.

Viral infections of the intestine can last anything from a day to several weeks and vary in intensity. A long lasting infection may be severe of mild. It all depends on the virus in question and if the bodies defenses have any memory of this virus or viruses with similar protein structures on the outer wall. Some short lived infections can be extremely unpleasant and in contrast they can be very mild. There are no set rules. Viruses change the structure of their cell walls through mutations. This is part of the evolutionary success of viruses. The sheer numbers by which they replicate themselves leaves every statistical possibility for viral mutations to occur.

This video of the production of the HIV Retro Virus is a good animation of how viruses use host cells to transcribe the proteins that they need to reproduce themselves. In oter types of virus the process is simpler but basically the same.

The only sure way to protect yourself against entero viruses is to maintain a good personal hygiene regime in the home and at work and to buy food from a safe reliable source and to make sure that you have a safe water supply..

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