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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that did not get rid of the rats there.

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

So is setting up a temporary market a good option?

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

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

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

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Below you will find a story where a native Singapori woman died after eating Rojak salad at a renound Indian food stall. The lady in question and many others like her made a point of stopping for their favorite treat whilst doing their shopping.

After eating at this stall many times previusly the lady had no idea that this would be her final visit. This is a story with a tragic end. What could have caused this catastrophie to occur? Could it be that the stall owner unwittingly bought contaminated produce. Could it be that he bought cheap supplies knowing that it was not up to standard? Could it be that that there was some type of cross contamination in the market place? Possibly, but I doubt this because so many people were taken ill.

In my opinion this salad may well have been contaminated with a Yerisinia or staphilococcus aureus toxin. I come to this conclusion due to the speed at which the bacteria acted within the body of the victim. The article is quite shocking and put accross the importance of knowing the source of what you eat.

SINGAPORE The Geylang food poisoning outbreak claimed its first victim on Monday. 57 year old canteen assistant Aminah Samijo died at 6.50am.

A statement from the Changi General Hospital (CGH) said Mdm Aminah suffered from acute renal failure as the infection had affected her kidneys.

She was hospitalised on Friday at 11.45pm after she became unconscious after eating Indian rojak salad at a Geylang Serai market stall.

CGH said she was unresponsive and had breathing difficulties. She had a fever and was diagnosed with severe gastroenteritis.

CGH said Mdm Aminah was treated with antibiotics and put on a ventilator support. She was also given medications for low blood pressure and diarrhoea. Mdm Aminah passed away without regaining consciousnesses.

CGH said it is unable to comment on the cause of her death as it is now under a coroner’s inquiry.

As of Monday, the hospital has treated 77 patients who came down with food poisoning. 16 of them are currently hospitalised at CGH and are in a stable condition. They were admitted for diarrhoea and dehydration and were treated with antibiotics and intravenous infusion.

Meanwhile, a 38 year old woman miscarried after contracting food poisoning from eating rojak from the same stall. Rosiah Samat lost her two month old foetus over the weekend.

Her husband had bought the rojak for her on Friday. While eating, the housewife noticed that the gravy tasted slightly off. She fell ill hours later and was sent to KK Hospital that evening.

Madam Rosiah has two other daughters. One is twelve years old, whilst the other is eight.

Another pregnant woman, Madam Sarina, is now recuperating at KKH after eating the same rojak. Her sister in law, a Madam Sharifah, said she is now four months pregnant.

Madam Sharifah said: “My sister in law was admitted to KKH with stomach cramps and she had diarrhoea and she was vomitting. From what I understand, the gynaecologist had to do a thorough medical checkup and he checked whether the baby was ok. The heartbeat is alright. So the baby is pretty safe at this point in time.

“But they are keeping a very close watch on her. She is still totally bed ridden. In her ward, there are other women who are also down with the same (condition) — diarrhoea, due to the same stall. She is still very weak.

More than 100 people fell sick after eating from Stall number 302, Rojak Geylang Serai.

The National Environment Agency said investigations are ongoing.

animal-655308_1280I can remember when I was about fourteen years old I went on a school trip to see a steel mill in Sheffield England. Three things impressed me on that trip. These three things were the noise, the heat and the rats. I could hardly believe my eyes. Not a bite of food in sight and yet rats were scurrying around not twenty yards away from where we were walking.


I can remember wondering why rats would bother about a steel mill. There was not a morsel of food in sight. It was not until fifteen years later that I would find the answer to that question.  Yet the fact remains that rats do infest many types of factories.

If the common denominator for rats establishing presence in factories and mills wasn’t food then what was it? In 1991 I began a course of practical Engineering in agriculture. It was during this course that I found out why rats infested many types of industrial plants. The reason is copper. Mice have trouble getting enough copper to be able to operate their immune systems and the missing link that enables them to do so is copper.

All industrial operations run on electricity and electricity runs through copper wires. Rats peel away the plastic coating on electric cables and lick the wire to get more copper and they do this obcessively. People who have worked in factories will know that from time to time they will hear an almighty bang. More often than not this bang is caused by a rat short circuting an electric cable. Needless to say that the rat is dead.

Why an I telling you this? Because one needs to understand that if rats had no reason to infest a food factory, they would still be there because of the copper wiring.

Food factories can be categorized into two main categories. Ones that process raw agricultural produce, plant or animal and ones that process food that has already been processed for industrial use.  In the first example produce is brought from the farm or co-operative sorting plant to the factory. Here the produce is tipped, washed, sorted and peeled or alternatively slaughtered, skinned, gutted and cleaned in the case of most animal produce.

In both cases the amount of dirt and contamination that is around at this intitial stage of the game is quite unbelievable and it is at this stage of the process that most rats are found. Only an ongoing, organized and regular cleaning regime can reduce the presence of rats and mice.

Once the produce has finished this init ial stage it is then passed to the next stage. Whatever the stage the amount of dirt should be very minimal compared to that of the first stage. As the product progresses towards packing the work environment should be almost sterile in comparison.

There are systems that analyze the risks and points at which one can reduce risks to food products. One such system is called HACCP. HACCP means hazard analysis and critical control points. In this system each hazard is defined and critical control points at which the level of the hazard can be reduced, eliminated or controlled are also defined and adopted.

There may well be one sequence of actions to control vermin and an entirely differnt sequence for the control of bacteria, for instance. It is the job of management to ensure that workerd are familiar with all the various sequences and to make sure that they are adopted and applied.

When this system is implemented in all of the factories various departments threats such as salmonella poisoning from rats is greatly reduced. Trouble can start when priorities and sequences are changed for one reason or another. The enemy of the HACCP system is cut backs. Cut backs in staff or cut backs in spending. Right now we are in the midst of a recession. In recession we can expect cut backs on more or less everything.

In plants where produce is immediately pumped through stainless steel pipes the opportunity for vermin to contaminate the produce is greatly lowered. Businesses such as bakeries may enocounter problems with rats at the end of the process rather than at the initial stages. For some reason mice  rats and cats do not seem to like white flour and prefer to wait until it has been transformed into bread products. Here pest control is particularly important because there is no process between contamination and the consumer that will kill the bacteria that have been transferred through cross contamination.  Nothing should be left unattended at this stage. Nothing should be but directly on the floor and nothingshould be put into plastic trays that have not been washed thoroughly in a proper industrial manner. To fail to be attentive to this points can cause indirect contamination via contact with vermin excretions.

The golden rule is to leave noting to chance. Always pre suppose that anything that can happen in theory will happen in practice.

Just how many articles need to be written about pistachios? Well, obviously one more because now I’m writing one too.

Ok, so lets look at the facts. We know that the nuts were rodent infested and that salmonella bacterium were found to be present in the nuts. Ok, sounds reasonable! food hygiene standards were down and a few dirty little mice or rats got at the nuts.

Here’s a video demonstrating the somewhat less than delicate method of harvesting pistachios

Excuse me! Don’t all types of nuts, seeds and grain attract rats anyway? Don’t pistachios grow in the open environment where field mice, cute little chipmunks and a whole host of other little critters frolic to their hearts content. OK, the mice and rats that infest wharehouses, sewers and industrial areas are not quite the same as those found in nature, right?

The answer to this is yes, and no. And another question comes to mind. Is salmonella the only dangerous bacteria spread by rodents? The answer to this is NO. Rodent urine very often contains a bacteria called leptospira which infects other species with a desease called leptospirosos. Rodents have no control over their excretions and there fore wherever they go a trail of their infected urine is left behind. This is how many snake species track rodents.

Leptospirosis is a very unpleasant desease which can require up to three weeks in a hospital bed to recover from. It is a zoonotic desease and is often contracted by fishermen who work on wharfs, dairy workers and other professions involving animals or places where rodents congregate such as sewers and feed bins. Leptospira as a species is far more heat resistant than salmonella. We should remember that not all deseases involving food are contracted through ingestion. Some, like leptospirosis can be contracted through healthy skin, especially when wet.

Rodents may also be responsible for the spreading of other forms of bacteria such as camphilobacter, staphilococcus aureus, clostridium spp. pseudomonas aeroginosa and many more. All of which can cause serious illness and similarly to leptospira are more heat resistant than salmonella.

But let’s say for a minute that in spite of all these other possibilities salmonella is our prime concern. What could have happened that caused the bacteria to remain alive? They are roasted and salted, right? In theory that is correct. Pistachios are typically roasted and salted if they are left in the shell. If they are taken out of the shell they may be sugared in which case the pistachios are dipped into boiling sugar syrup and cooked in an oven so that the sugar crystalizes.

If salmonella remained alive on the nuts it is clear that they did not receive sufficient roasting. Could it be that the second largest pistachio distributer in the ‘US of A’ did not roast his nuts adequately? What’s going on? We have been chomping these nuts for years why the problems all of a sudden? Were there no rodents then?

We are in a recession, right? Cuts in costs have to be made, right? Could it be that workers were instructed to change the control setting on the roasters to a lower temperature and/or keep the nuts within the machine for a shorter period of time.

As I said, salmonella is by no means the only health risk where pistachios are concerned. We have not even started to discuss liver cancer causing moulds that have been found on pistachios all over the world.

One thing that I can assure you is this, just about every pistachio that you will ever eat has been in indirect or direct contact with a rodent at some stage of its production. It is all but impossible to keep rodents away from this type of crop in the natural habitat. The problem that occured here is one of HACCP’s and GMP. In my opinion critical control points were disregarded in the interest of saving money. This could include pest control within the processing plant also.

The moral of this story is that if you don’t want to loose big time, don’t try to save small time!

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Have you ever seen a strawberry that looks bright red and mushy? Although it doesn’t look mouldy or rotten it is clear that the strawberry has come to the end of it’s useful life. Is the strawberry bad to eat? Personally, I think that strawberries at this stage are at the height of their flavor, in the initial stages of this softening process they are incredibly sweet but as bacterial activity sets in the sweetness will turn into sourness which will eventually turn into bitterness.

Notice the order in which the fruits decay. It’s interesting to see which fruits last longest. The longer the fruit lasts, the greater it’s anti-oxidizing qualities.

If they have not gone mouldy or rotten I have no problem eating as many as I can. Others might find this revolting and think that food at this stage of decay should only be used for cooking purposes and then only if you are one hundred percent sure that the fruit has not been in conditions where bacterial contamination can occur. In order to understand why I have no problem eating such a strawberry one needs to know a little about the physiology of the cells of all living things, plant or animal.

As a living organism, such as a piece of fruit, begins to age, nature has designed mechanisms that help it to disintegrate and turn into what basically boils down to compost at a faster rate than if the fruit were to be disintegrate through micro-organismic activity alone. This mechanism of self destruction is called “lysis”.

The reason for this is so that the contents of the fruit (or animal) and micro-organisms effect the environment in as minimal a way as possible. It also facilitates the process in which the seed takes root and continues a new generation of the plant species.

All living organisms have several defense mechanisms, some specific and some non specific. Specific defence mechanisms know how to neutralize a pre memorized target such as a specific bacterial species or viral species. This is done through a process of protein recognition. All cellular structures in nature contain elements of protein. Each species has designed and employed it’s own unique protein structures and it is for this reason that specific defense systems can be set up by living organisms.

Specific defense mechanisms can take several days to be set into motion and it is for this reason that organisms need non specific defense mechanisms. Non specific defense mechanisms play a dual role. Firstly they make a dent in the pathogen’s attack by managing to kill a significant number of invader cells, hopefully. Secondly, the non specific defence system destroys the invader and by dispersing the bacterial cell debris rondomly they make the job of indentifying the attacker easier for the specific defense mechanism.

The bodie’s non specific defence mechanisms come in several forms. Some are cellular. This means that some are forms of white blood cells (in the animal kingdom) which travel around in the intra cellular fluids. Should they become atached to a cell which it recognizes as problomatic by virtue of being “non self”, if will kill it.

Some none specific defense mechanisms are not cellular but exist as fluid filled cysts within the organisms cells. These fluids are called complement chemicals. Complements comprise some of the most destructive chemical compounds known to nature.

One such chemical os called “lysozyme”. The lysozyme is contained within a cyst that exists within all healthy cells and this cyst is called a “lyzozome”. Some non specific defender cells will engulf an invader, taking it into its own body cavity. Lyzozomes will attach themselves to the foreign body and empty the contents of the cyst into the invader. The lyzozyme oxydizes the invader and kills it. This process is happening all of the time in every living organism.

When an organism ages as the metabolic exchange of chemical nutrients slows, cell walls begin to rupture. The contents of the cell spill into the cellular structure of the organism. Lysozyme is now floating freely around other cells. The lyzozyme oxydizes the walls of the cells it comes into contact with and causes them to rupture as well. Thus, a tissue deterioration process has initiated. The organism’s tissues will become mush and micro-organisms will work in conjunction with this process to bring about the re-incorporation of the organism with the soil. This process is often called enzymatic wastage of tissue.

This process can initiate whether a fruit is still attached to the tree or not and in animals, during old age. It is a natural and unavoidable process. It is part of the recycling method of nature.

Food that has reached this stage of development should neither be bought nor used. Although this stage does not in itself signal bacterial infestation, infestation by bacteria and/or moulds is imminant and should always be considered a presupposed fact when preparing food for others.

Note: a similar process can occur by freezing. Water within frozen foods crystalizes. The crystals puncture cell walls and the fruit becomes mushy. Once thawed fruit in this condition must be cooked as soon as possible to prevent further enzymatic detrioration or bacterial contamination.

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In my last article on “scores on doors” about the initial results posted for the experimental scoring system of restaurants which is currently being tried in a nominal portion of urban and regional boroughs throughout the UK, it is quite clearly seen that certain restaurants run by specific ethnic groups are receiving far lower ratings than institutional and franchise type establishments.

The danger with results such as these is that it can very quickly be interpreted by certain people as an effort by local and national authorities to target restaurants and other food retail businesses owned by ethnic groups, primarily Asian.

It is my opinion that the authorties responsible for carrying out these environmental and food hygiene tests could well be hard pushed to prove their objectivity if ethnic groups were to register counter charges based upon claims of racial discrimination and targeting. Much thought and legal preparation would be wise in anticipation for such eventualities.

However, there are several issues that need to be put on the table before such claims are made. The first of these concerns staff. Are all staff working within ethnic restaurants asked to provide evidence that they are in good health and fit to work in a food preparation establishment? Secondly, have all staff received adequate training about food hygiene? Thirdly, is the restaurant adequately staffed to cover all the tasks that need to be done, especially cleaning tasks. Fourth, are the staff provided with suitable cleaning equipment and detergeants to do the job of cleaning? Fith, Can receipts be provided that all food stock was bought from a safe and legal source? Sixth, has the premises been checked by a public health official and been approved as suitable for running a food business? Seventh, are hygiene standards maintained? Is food stored in suitable and clean conditions? Eigth, the working day planned and executed in a way which all but eliminates the risk of cross contamination? Ninth, is food kept hot and served fully cooked at the appropriate temperatures?

If all of these conditions are maintained, no restaurant should have any trouble being scored highly on any food hygiene check. Race and ethnicity do not come into the equasion at all. All of these affore mentioned points are completely objective. A bacterial swab and culture doesn’t lie. As modern cultures we have an interest in diversity and choice. All we ask is that whilst sampling and enjoying the tastes and culinary traditions of other cultures, our health be safeguarded.

So what is the main difference between institutional kitchens, franchise businesses and ethnic restaurants? Why are the first group faring so much better than the ethnic groups? The obvious and initial answer wouls have to be good intent. Large corporations are consistantly concerned about the possibilities of law suits. Integrity then becomes an issue which translates directly into safeguarding reputation and profit margins. The second most pressing problem area is infrastructure. In order to prevent contamination of food certain logistical conditions must be in place such as, stainless steel work surfaces, well painted walls free of mildew, steam extractors, separated cleaning areas, safe waste disposal facilities, and professional food grade equipment for starters.

A large part of maintaining hygiene standards has to do with cleaning materials. Commercial degreasers such as caustic soda, chlorosept, phosphoric acid and bleach products destroy bacteria such as salmonella and E. Coli by effectively eating away at their lipopolysaccharide envelopes. Regular monitoring and treatment against insects and other pests further reduce desease risks.

In addition, in fast food restaurants there is very little handling of raw materials such as unpeeled vegetables. Therefore, the risk of cross contamination is greatly reduced.

bird-815011_1920Zoonotic diseases are ones which are passed from the animal kingdom to human beings. Many micro organisms tend to be species specific and it is for this reason that there are not a great many zoonotic diseases. Some diseases passed on to us via animals are very common whereas some others are very rare. Some have the potential to cause world catastrophes whereas others may just about give us an upset stomach.
Below you will find a list of zoonotic diseases in alphabetical order.

Anthrax is a serious disease that is found in all warm blooded animals. The specific host is thought to be antelope and carnivores seem to react more slowly to the bacteria. The bacteria responsible for the cause of anthrax is Bacillus Anthracis. Human infections usually occur through the skin but it may also be inhaled or ingested. This is a very resistant spore forming bacteria whose spores may survive for decades in soil or animal products. The distribution is worldwide. Gastrointestinal anthrax is a very uncommon, often-fatal manifestation of the disease, caused by devouring meat from an animal that died of the disease. Gastrointestinal anthrax causes inflammation of the  stomach and the intestine accompanied by sores or ulcers, much the same as the lesions that appear on the skin in the skin form of anthrax. The primary signs of the disease include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and fever, followed by severe abdominal pain, vomiting of  blood, and severe and bloody diarrhea.

Brucellosis comes in four strains, B. abortus (in cattle), B. melitensis (sheep or goats), B. suis (pigs), and canis (dogs). The distribution of brucellosis is distributed worldwide. The disease id contracted via direct contact with animal excretions including milk. it is a disease caused by any of several forms of the gram-negative coccobacilli Brucella: Brucella melitensis, B. abortus, B. suis, and B. canis, the latter of which is very rare and causes only mild illness. Brucellosis is most common in rural areas among farming populations, vets, meat packers, slaughterhouse staff, and livestock breeders. Laboratory workers are also among those who are at risk. It is primarily a disease of animals (including cattle, pigs, sheep, camels, goats, and dogs); humans usually contract it through ingestion of contaminated and unpasteurized milk or other non cooked milk products or by ingesting raw meat or bone marrow, through skin lesions and cuts, through direct contact with an infected animal, or through the inhalation of dust particles that may be present in contaminated soil. Symptoms of brucellosis are manifested as follows:  fever, chills, sweating, malaise, and weakness. The fever often occurs in recurring waves, rising in the evening and subsiding during the day,  separated by periods of remission at intervals. Other symptoms may include  weight loss, headache, muscle and joint pain, and an enlarged spleen, and  often orchiepididymitis in young men. In some victims the disease is acute; however, more often it is chronic, recurring over a period of months or years. Although brucellosis itself is rarely fatal, treatment is important because serious complications such as pneumonia, endocarditis, meningitis, and encephalitis may develop. Tetracycline plus streptomycin is the preferred treatment for this disease; bed rest is also of great importance. A vaccine is available outside the United States. The disease can also be called Cyprus fever, dust fever, Gibraltar fever, Malta fever, Mediterranean fever and  undulant fever. See also abortus fever.

Campylobacteriosis is caused by the bacterium campylobacter spp. It is carried by many animal species with a seemingly increasing incidence rate. Most species of animals seem to be reasonably host specific but cross infection is possible usually via fecal contamination of food. Improper or incomplete cooking of food is the most common way that the disease is spread, and it is commonly thought by bacteriologists that poultry account for over half the diagnosed cases. Untreated water and raw milk are also potential sources of contamination.
The incubation period after exposure is from one to ten days.  symptoms begin with a day or two of mild fever, muscle aches, and headaches. This stage is followed by symptoms that involve the the intestinal tract. Diarrhea occurs with or without the presence of blood and severe abdominal cramps are the overriding intestinal symptom. The severity of symptoms may vary from case to case, ranging from only mild fever to  severe dehydration and very rarely death (this is seen mainly in the very young or old). The disease usually lasts for about a week, but persists longer in about twenty percent of cases. At least ten percent will have a relapse, and some patients will continue to pass the bacteria for several weeks after recovery.
Complications

Clostridial disease is caused by the bacterium clostridium spp. It is transferred by mammals, birds and fish with a worldwide distribution. Although the disease is normally transmitted through wound infection, food poisoning does occur. There is little danger of cross species transmission. The clostridial family of bacteria are noted by their ability to manufacture very potent toxins. The most potent toxin in nature is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. This toxin renders the bodies ability to contract muscles ineffective and death will occur by paralysis and asphyxiation, or the inability to inhale. Clostridium botulinum is found in the manure of animals along with clostridium tetani, clostridium difficile and clostridium perfringens, which causes gas gangrene. These bacteria are spore forming and the spores can survive for many years in soil. When conditions are favorable the bacterial spores will grow back into bacteria and begin to produce toxin.

Food that has been improperly preserved or stored can harbor botulinum toxin-producing clostridia. Botulism symptoms usually appear within 18-36 hours after eating contaminated food, in extreme cases it may take four hours to eight days for the bacteria to develop toxin. Initial signs of infection include blurred or double vision and difficulty in swallowing food and speaking.  Gastrointestinal problems may include constipation, nausea, and vomiting. As botulism progresses, the victim experiences weakness or paralysis, starting with the head muscles and progressing down the body. Breathing eventually becomes increasingly more and more difficult. and without medical intervention, respiratory failure and death are the likely outcome.

Listeriosis is caused by the bacterium listeria monocytogenes and it can be found in numerous species of animals and birds. It has a worldwide distribution. Listeriosis was traditionally considered to be a disease of animals for the most part. However in recent decades there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of this disease. The symptoms can be severe and patients who are high risk may have a problem overcoming listeriosis. It is becoming resistant to many forms of antibiotics. This is primarily a food borne bacteria. Listeria can be contracted by the ingestion of contaminated meat, dairy products, shellfish, dust and by coming into contact with infected animals. Listeria can pass through the wall of the gut and enter the bloodstream. It likes to sit on the central nervous system and spinal column. Pregnant mothers can spread this disease to their unborn babies through the placenta. Listeria cam cause severe flu like symptoms, meningitis and encephalitis. Listeria is also found in soil, sewage and in five percent of the intestines of humans without them feeling any ill effect.

Salmonellosis is transmitted by the salmonella spp. Bacteria which has over two thousand serotypes. It can be found in all animal species but it is not commonly thought to infect fish. The distribution of salmonellosis is worldwide and the occurrence of this disease is mostly attributed to the ingestion of undercooked food which is contaminated with feces. It is a form of gastroenteritis that is usually caused by the ingestion of food that has been contaminated with a species of Salmonella bacillus. It is characterized by an incubation period of six hours  to forty eight  hours which is followed by sudden colicky abdominal pain, high fever, and bloody, watery diarrhea. Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms, and abdominal signs may be almost identical  those of acute appendicitis or cholecystitis.

Symptoms usually last from four to seven days, but diarrhea and fever may persist for up to 2 weeks. Dehydration may occur. There is no specific treatment for salmonellosis. Antibiotics are usually not prescribed unless the disease has spread beyond the intestine and into other organs. Adequate cooking, good refrigeration, and attention to personal hygiene, especially the washing of hands may reduce the frequency of  salmonella outbreaks. Salmonella can also cause typhoid fever.

Tuberculosis is caused by the bacterium mycobacterium bovis (cattle). It can be transferred to humans via cattle and non human primates. The distribution of tuberculosis is worldwide and has now been linked to the aids virus. The disease can be transmitted by any animal species including humans. It now normally takes treatment with three forms of antibiotics simultaneously to combat this bacteria. No other disease throughout history has claimed so many lives.  The tuberculosis bacteria will infect the organ via which it entered the body. In most cases this is the lungs. As it has a protective enveloping it manages to outsmart the bodies specific immune system. The tuberculosis bacteria can survive within the non specific white blood cells and by colonising them it can move around the body from organ to organ. This is a slow process. It can transpire over a period of years. In the early part of the last century one in seven people were infected with tuberculosis. In the western world this number has dropped greatly due to the improvement in living conditions and lifestyle. In the third world, particularly Africa , conditions are still right for tuberculosis infection.

Tularemia is transmitted by the Francisella Bacteria. It is transmitted to humans by rabbits, dogs, cats, rodents, sheep and deer. Its distribution is circumpolar within the confines of the northern hemisphere. The disease is transmitted through ingestion when exposed to infected animals and also via bites of arthropods. It is an infectious disease of animals caused by the bacillus Francisella (Pasteurella) tularensis, which may be transmitted by insect vectors or direct contact. It is characterized in humans by fever, headache, and an ulcerated skin lesion with localized lymph node enlargement or by eye infection, GI ulcerations, or pneumonia, depending on the site of entry and the response of the host. This disease can be fatal if not treated with the appropriate antibiotics. Treatment includes streptomycin, chloramphenicol, and tetracycline. Recovery produces lifelong immunity. A vaccine was used in the past to protect laboratory workers but is not currently available; however, a new vaccine is in development. Also called deerfly fever, rabbit fever. Also spelled tularaemia.

Vibriosis is transmitted by the Vibrio parahaemolyticus or the V. alginolyticus bacteria. It is transmitted salt water fish and shellfish and is found primarily in the pacific regions including Asia, Australia, North America and the gulf of Mexico . The cause is the ingestion of undercooked contaminated food. Vibriosis is caused by eating seafood contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus or Vibrio vulnificus. These bacteria damage the inner wall of the intestine, which causes diarrhea and related symptoms. Vibrio vulnificus can get through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream.
Persons at risk for severe, often fatal vibriosis include those with liver disease (cirrhosis), excess iron (hemochromatosis), thalassemia (a blood disorder), AIDS, diabetes, or those who are immunosuppressed.
Symptoms of intestinal infection occur within two days of eating contaminated seafood. Symptoms last for two to 10 days and include watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, and possibly fever. Symptoms of a blood infection develop one to two days after eating contaminated seafood, and include fever, chills, low blood pressure, and large fluid-filled blisters on the arms or legs. Similar blisters can also be produced by a Vibrio vulnificus skin infection. This can occur when the skin is pierced by the spines of infected fish. These infections can be severe and sometimes require amputations if not treated in time.

Yersiniosis is caused by the yersinia paratuberculosis or the V enterocolitica bacteria and is passed onto human beings by Animals and birds. It is distributed in the northern hemisphere and is transmitted via contaminated food and water.

Yersinia p. causes septicemia (blood poisoning) often with signs of gastroenteritis which is caused by Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, this occurs in wild rodents, birds, and most domestic species, particularly cats, although this is not common. The symptoms are: high  fever, severe toxemia with a high fatality rate. At postmortem there are large numbers of embolic abscesses in most of the internal organs. It is also called  pseudotuberculosis because of the way it infects multiple organs.
Occurs also in many species of fish as a septicemia. This form of infection is caused by Yersinia ruckeri.

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You have all heard of the Salmonella food outbreaks and scares that pop up all around this country and in many other places around the world, but how many of you know that “Salmonella” is not a disease as such?  That would be called Salmonellosis.

 

Salmonella is a genus of Gram-negative, non-spore forming, and motile enterobacteria with flagella which protrude in all directions (peritrihous).  Salmonella gets it’s energy from oxidation and reduction reactions using organic sources.  Most species of Salmonella are facultative anaerobics and are found around the world in  many different locations both  in warm blooded and coldblooded animals alike, and, believe it or not, human beings.  Some of the diseases attributed to Salmonella include typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, and food borne Salmonellosis.

Samonella infections are all zoonotic.  They can be transmitted from humans to animals and from animals to humans.  Common strains are Salmonella Enterica Subsp., Enterica Serovar Typhi, or Salmonella Typhi.  Enteritis Salmonella can cause diarrhea, and infants, small children, the elderly, and people suffering from suppressed immune systems can become very seriously ill will need antibiotic treatment to rectify the problem.

There are an estimated forty thousand cases of Salmonella infections reported annually within the USA.  Salmonella can survive for weeks outside of a living organism.  Sunlight accelerates their death rate, as does being heated to a temperature of fifty five degrees for a period of one hour, or to sixty degrees for a period of not less than half an hour.  To guard against Salmonella food must be heated to at least seventy five degrees for a minimum of ten minutes.  Freezing does not kill salmonella .

Sources of Salmonella infections can be caused by injestion of unclean foodstuffs especially in institutional kitchens and restaurants, polluted surface water or stagnant water, improperly thawed poultry, or uncooked eggs from Salmonella infested birds.  Suspected foods contaminated by Salmonella outbreaks are taken off shop selves and returned to the manufacturer and should not be ingested.

The Salmonella in peanut butter found inside the products of the Peanut Corporation of America, has become one of the worst food borne Salmonella outbreaks in US food history and has been put down to criminal negligence.
Salmonellosis usually develops within twelve to seventy two hours after the person becomes infected with salmonella and Salmonella infections normally resolve in about seven days with oral liquid treatments.  Antibiotics such as ampricillin, ciproflaxacin, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazale are the best treatments for Salmonella infections which spreads to the intestines.  Some Salmonella patients have developed Reiter’s Syndrome which can lead to chronic arthritis and antibiotic treatments tend to have little effect on whether or not the patient develops arthritis from the Salmonella infection.

Beef, pork, milk, poultry, and eggs are the main host carriers of Salmonella, but any  type of food can become contaminated by this bacteria.  Eating raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat can be a good method of contracting a Salmonella infection, as can cross-contamination of foods.  Symptoms of Salmonella infections may include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramping.  Laboratory tests are required to determine the presence of Salmonella and its specific strain.

Milk pasteurization, farm animal hygiene, cleaner slaughterhouse regimes, cleaner vegetable and fruit harvesting and packing operations, and better educational training standards of food industry workers in basic food handling and restaurant safety inspection procedures, may all help prevent Salmonella outbreaks from happening.
US Government Departments, such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, monitor the frequency of Salmonella infections in the Country, and help local and State Health Departments investigate outbreaks and devise controls and measures to lessen cases from happening.

 

The Food and Drug Administration inspects imported foods, milk pasteurization plants, promotes better food preparation techniques in restaurants and processing plants, as well as regulates the wrongful use of certain types of antibiotics as food animal growth inducers.  The United States Department of Agriculture monitors the health of food animals, inspects egg manufacturing plants, and the quality of slaughtered and processed meats.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency regulates and monitors drinking water supplies for safety.

The following steps can be taken to help prevent outbreaks of Salmonellosis:  cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly at hot temperatures, avoid cooking oversized batches, do not eat or drink raw eggs or unpasteurized milk, wash hands after handling raw meat or poultry, and if foods in restaurants are served undercooked such as meat, eggs, and poultry send them back and have them cooked some more.
Salmonellosis is preventable by adopting correct food hygiene measures.

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