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E. Coli or escherichia coli are gram negative, rod shaped, motile or non motile, non spore producing facultative anaerobic bacteria which live in the lower intestine of all warm blooded animals. E. Coli species that are capable of propulsion do so by means of a ‘flagella’ which is a whip like tail.

Most types of e. coli are absolutely harmless and are part of the normal and necessary flora of warm blooded species. In fact they are very necessary because they produce vitamin K as a bi product of their metabolic activity and by existing in great numbers help by preventing other pathogenic bacteria from colonizing the gut.

Some species of e.coli are pathogenic which means that they can cause desease. The strains that are pathogenic are 0157:H7 and 0111:B4. This particularly virulent capacity was transferred to these e.coli bacteria from shigella bacteria which passed shiga toxin to e.coli by means of bacteriofages which are a type of viral species. Both these strains of e.coli have the capability of transferring their virulent qualities to other bacteria around them by means of their sex pilus which is a needle like protrusion from the side of their body wall by which they insert the DNA codes necessary for the production of virulent qualities into bacteria next to them. One such virulent quality is the ability to resist certain anti biotics.

The very virulent strains of coli such as 0157:H7 and 0111:B4 are capable of causing serious intestinal illness particularly in the very young, old and the immunologically compromised. However it must be stressed that the majority of common e.coli outbreaks are mild and cause only diarrhea and mild temperature increase. More serious virulent cases can cause complications such as hemolytic-uremic syndrome.

E. coli toxins can be heat tolerant or heat labile. This quality makes the boiling of water to kill e. coli unsure and in such a case water should be boiled in a pressure cooker, if available, for at least twenty minutes. Another alternative would be to only drink safe bottled water if possible. E. coli bacteria which escape from the intestine into the abdominal cavity through means of a perforated ulcer, intestinal lesion or a ruptured appendix will cause peritonitis and be life threatening if not treated promptly with antibiotics such as streptomycin and gentamycin to which e.coli are very sensitive. E. Coli which are associated with the intestinal mucosa lawyer can be found in greater numbers in conditions such as Crohns disease, iritable bowel disorder and ulcerative colitis.

E.coli is contracted through contact with contaminated food or water sources in which the content of the gut as come into direct or ‘indirect’ contact with food or water. Severe cases of e. Coli infection can resemble cholera.

New strains of E.coli are continually being produced by the process of mutation. Some strains may develop traits that are harmful to the host animal. E.coli prefers to reproduce at the temperature of 37 degrees Celsius but some strains have shown the capacity to reproduce at temperatures of up to 49 degrees Celsius.

E. coli has been found in agricultural produce such as spinach. In 2006 there was a famous outbreak of contaminated spinachin the US due to the fact that bovine feces polluted a spinach field which was at the bottom of the hill on which a herd of cattle were kept. In this case all the spinach was recalled and destroyed.

E. coli contamination can be prevented for the most part by maintaining a correct food hygiene policy in the kitchen and by using reputable food suppliers.

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Governments Must Enforce Food Hygiene Law and Stop Passing The Baby

Governments have a key role to play in the area of food hygiene. Only a few decades ago our eating habits were much different. Each nation had its traditions and idiosyncratic food culture. With the mass development of the tourist industry populations have discovered new food cultures and now demand’s products from around the world to add diversity and interest to their diets.

This presents challenges for the authorities of any country. The level of control which the authorities have in territories outside of their own is at least very limited. The quality control of food products and the procedures of growth and preparation of materials used in these products are put into the hands of industry on the understanding that companies function along national, regional and international guidelines.

Generally speaking, the quantity of newly imported food products coming through borders of countries far exceeds the capabilities of the relevant authorities of any specific country to regulate. Most authorities have massive back logs of product samples that are waiting to be checked. Just stocking these products is a logistical nightmare.

Although imported products bring an influx of new microbial species with them, so do tourists. Tourists that come back from foreign holidays do so with microbial samples of their experiences and the places they visited. Many of these tourists may work in the food industry which means that there is potential for new microbes to spread throughout populations. The influx of immigrants into western countries is also a major contributory factor in the introduction and spread of microbial Species.

The task of food hygiene law enforcement is carried out by governments at central, regional and local authority levels. As we go up the food chain toward the end consumer we find that central and local governments hare having to deal with subjective issues such as facial culture which complicate the enforcement of food hygiene laws in many instances. Immigrant populations claim the right to practice their own traditions and practices which is many instances is not conducive to the statutes of law in areas of food hygiene. Authorities are finding it increasingly difficult to relate to issues as objectively as they would like.

The role of government in the area of food hygiene is first and foremost to protect consumers from illness and injury that may be cause by food in an adequate manner. The policies of the government should consider the vulnerabilities of the population as a whole and/or the vulnerabilities of specific groups within the population.

It is the job of the government to divide this task to different authorities who’s job it is to oversee different aspects of food hygiene and safety control. It is also the job of government to see that information flows freely and effectively throughout this chain where and when applicable.

Governments should also provide assurance that food sold within its jurisdiction is suitable for human consumption. The government has to take ultimate responsibility for the safety of it’s citizens.

The government also has to maintain confidence in the public eye that internationally traded food is safe to eat and provide food hygiene educational programs that effectively communicate the principles of correct food hygiene principles both to agriculture, industry, trading and consumers alike.

Trade agreements with foreign countries should be made in such a way that the national interests of the population is safeguarded. When these conditions are breached action must be taken to safeguard the public interest.

The area of food hygiene is one which is constantly changing. The microbial world is very dynamic and changes from day to day. The actions of people within the food industry also changes and in many cases looks for ways to cut or minimize safety procedures and standards. It is the job of government to ensure that the financial gain of unscrupulous people and both in the national and international arenas do not harm the well being of the consumer and to everything within their power to convince foreign governments to control exported product quality.

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In my last article on the subject of bacteria (shigella) I described some bacterial terminology in lay man’s terms to help you to understand the scientific terminology. Today I would like to touch a little upon the subject of how we categorize bacteria. There are many species of bacteria and the have evolved in many different ways. Each has found a niche in the evolutionary ladder and they have adapted themselves to be able to live in a vast variety of different conditions. What I want to do is to go through some of the different conditions in which bacteria live and by which bacteria are categorized.

The first three categories I am going to describe relate to different temperature conditions in which bacteria can be found and by which they are categorized for having this quality.

Psicrophilic. Psicro in Greek means low. Psicrophilic bacteria are ones which prefer to function at low temperatures. Normally speaking, low temperatures means below 5 degrees Celsius. The advantage that these bacteria have by utilizing cold conditions is that there are very few other bacteria that can compete with them at this temperature. From a food hygiene perspective these are the bacteria which cause refrigerator spoilage. If you have ever notices a slightly slimy surface to food that is kept at low temperatures this sliminess can be caused by psicrophilic bacteria. Normally these are not considered to be pathogenic bacteria but if you are particularly sensitive eating food that has been affected by psychrophylic bacteria can cause mild to medium stomach upset.

Mesophilic. Mesophilic bacteria are once which prefer to perform their metabolic functions at a moderate temperature range. This means that this category of bacteria is active between temperatures of 10 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius. many processes in the food industry, particularly the cheese industry, and most fermentation processes occur within this temperature range. This is also the temperature at which the vast majority of pathogenic bacteria function and therefore this presents the need for close control of bacteria action within the cheese and fermentation industries. Mistakes in this area would definitely cost lives. It is also the temperature at which most bacteria attack our bodies.

Thermophilic. Thermophilic bacteria are bacteria which have developed the ability to operate their metabolic functions at high temperatures. Bacteria of this classification can survives in temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Celsius. Some bacteria of this classification are used in the food industry and some are found in nature. In processes of controlled rotting the development of thermophilic bacteria is undesirable because they will break the materials down too much. This can be caused in the manufacture of compost by giving too much food. By giving too much food the temperature rises, the desirable bacteria are killed as well as the worms and the thermophilic bacteria turn the entire compost heap into useless mush.

The next three categories that I would like to discuss refers to the chemical environment in which bacteria live with respect to levels of acidity. Bacteria have developed the ability to survive in a wide range of acidic or non acidic conditions. Many such bacteria by acting in different acidic or non acidic climates become desirable from an industrial point of view. Many industrial processes rely upon bacterial activity for the production of the end product. This is true of the food and non food industries. However, some conditions become the target zone of pathogenic bacteria.

Basophilic. Bacteria which thrive in a basophilic climate are bacteria which prefer to live in a base of alkali environment. The level of which depends upon the specific species of bacteria. Some pathogenic bacteria become pathogenically active in alkali environments particularly bacteria which break down the proteins in meat and fish. They have developed this ability because ammonia is produced in decomposing flesh which is an alkali. In saying that many industrial processes are dependant upon basophilic bacteria.

Normophilic. Normophilic bacteria are ones which perform their metabolic functions at a neutral PH level or there about. Bacteria wich are active within this climate include many types of pathogens. You may remember that we have already talked about the fact that most pathogenic bacteria cannot remain active when acidity levels are raised and PH is lowered. We can therefore state that a great many pathogens function in mesophilic, normophilic conditions. If you think about it this is logical because the acidic conditions within a body are more of less neutral. The bacteria have become suited to the environment in which they are designed to exist.

Acidophile. Bacteria which have developed to survive within an acidophile environment are ones which perform their metabolic function in a strong acid environment. Again, bacteria such as these have evolved in nature to continue the degradation of matter when conditions become too acidic for normophilc bacteria. This category of bacteria is also used extensively throughout industry for a great many purposes. Not many bacteria within this group are pathogens.

The third category of bacteria about which I would like to discuss with you refers to how the bacteria relates to the use of oxygen. by this I mean can the bacteria survive with or without the presence of oxygen. Most pathogenic bacteria exist in an anaerobic environment or can change from an aerobic environment to an anaerobic one depending on the environment in which it is trapped.

Obligate aerobic. An obligate aerobic bacteria is one which must have the presence of free oxygen around it. Many industrial processes rely upon bacteria of this category.

Obligate anaerobic. Obligate anaerobic bacteria are bacteria which for the most part cannot tolerate an oxygen rich environment and perform all their metabolic functions through fermentation. Some bacteria from this category are pathogens.

Facultative anaerobic bacteria are ones which can switch from an oxygen rich environment to an environment devoid of oxygen and back again as the need arises. Many pathogenic bacteria belong to this category. By belonging to this niche facultative anaerobic bacteria have ensured the ability to survive even when conditions change.

Now that you have this information look up different bacterial species on the Internet and see if you can distinguish pathogenic bacteria in several of the different categories stated here.

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

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

Article on Salmonella Enterica from Yale University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note. Not all species of amoebae are cyst forming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Article

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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