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In a previous article named “sores on doors” I outlined a new scheme aimed at providing a score system for restaurants and other eating houses which is being implimented on a trial basis throughout the UK . Certain regional and municipal councils are participating in the scheme, the aim of which is to provide an indication to the public of where to eat and where it is not reccomended  to eat.

The scheme is being run by public service departments such as the environmental health authority, the department of public health and other departments within the public sector. The scheme aims at providing equivalents to GMP and HACCP certifications in as much as businesses working in the restaurant and take away trade will now have to be aware that the grade they receive may well determine the volume of the trade they do.

The level of hygiene a business  maintains will now be integrally related to whether a food business will ultimately survive or not. Calderdale regional council posted it’s findings in a local paper for all the public to see. The gradeing is on a zero to five star system. A two star rating  indicates a level at which a business is complying with the minimum requirements of the law. The findings are interesting because they show that the vast majority of  food businesses in this northern region are in complience with the law.  The findings are listed below. It is interesting to note the range if businesses checked by the scheme and also to note the only type of business which received a “zero star” rating.  

Latest star ratings
Five stars:
Aramark, Commercial Street, Halifax
Burnley Road Junior and Infant School, Burnley Road, Mytholmroyd
Calder Cafe, Calder Workshops, Gibbet Street, Halifax
Calder Valley Club, Burnley Road, Mytholmroyd
Clover House Nursing Home, Clover House, Savile Road, Halifax
Domino’s Pizza, Commercial Street, Brighouse
Elland Junior and Infant School, Westgate, Elland
Farthing Wood Private Day Nursery, New Lane, Skircoat Green, Halifax
Savile House Residential Home, Savile Road, Halifax

Four stars:
Angaldale Guest House, Hangingroyd Lane, Hebden Bridge
Beckly House, Cooper Lane, Shelf
Dan Benn, Borough Market, Market Street, Halifax
Gibraltar Fisheries, Hopwood Lane, Halifax
Hairy Lemon, Lord Street, Halifax
James Street Fisheries, James Street, Holywell Green
Luigi’s, Rochdale Road, Greetland
Masons Arms, Navigation Place, Todmorden
Peaches, Market Street, Hebden Bridge
Pellon Baptist Church, Spring Hall Lane, Halifax
Plummet Line Hotel, Bull Close Lane, Halifax
Rastrick Hall and Grange, Close Lea Avenue, Brighouse
R G and J M Kemp, Gibbet Street, Halifax
S and J Dorsey, Borough Market, Market Street, Halifax
Sandwich Post, Bolton Brow, Sowerby Bridge
Seventy Two, Burnley Road, Todmorden
Siddalls Butchers, Borough Market, Market Street, Halifax
Stone Chair Inn, Moor End Road, Mount Tabor, Halifax
Thornhill Briggs Working Men’s Club, Old Lane, Brighouse
Todmorden Children’s Centre, Burnley Road, Todmorden

Three stars:
Albert Hotel, Albert Street, Hebden Bridge
Anchor Trust, Trinity Fold, Blackwall, Halifax
Bank Edge Fisheries, Bank Edge Road, Halifax
Bridges Bar, Station Road, Sowerby Bridge
Cafe Macchiato, Huddersfield Road, Elland
Copley Cricket and Athletic Club, Copley
First Class Child Care at Lorraines, Blackwall, Halifax
Ghanis Takeaway, King Cross Road, Halifax
Ginger Vegetarian Cafe, Northgate, Halifax
Hartleys Confectioners, Briggate, Brighouse
Hillcroft Kindergarten, Hillcroft, Kirk Lane, Hipperholme
Hungary Monkeys, Carr House Road, Shelf
Hungry Hippo, Denholme Gate Road, Hipperholme
Laurel Bank Nursing Home, Holdsworth Road, Holmfield, Halifax
Millers Quality Sandwiches, Huddersfield Road, Elland
Old Ship Inn, Bethel Street, Brighouse
Ovenden ARLFC, Cousin Lane, Ovenden, Halifax
P and W Stansfield, Todmorden Market Hall, Burnley Road, Todmorden
P Wilkinson Bakers Ltd, Borough Market, Market Street, Halifax
Rawson Primary School, Rawson Street North, Boothtown, Halifax
Robinson’s Farm Shop, Wall Close Farm, Score Hill, Northowram
Sagra Restaurant, Carlton Place, Halifax
Salvation Army Halifax Citadel, St James Road, Halifax
Sandwich Hut, Clifton Common, Clifton
Shears Inn, Boys Lane, Halifax
Sportsman Inn and Leisure, Bradford Old Road, Claremount, Halifax
Stephen Maskill Butchers Ltd, Well Head Farm, Well Head Lane, Sowerby
The Bear Cafe, Rochdale Road, Todmorden
The White Lion, Burnley Road, Mytholmroyd
Toppers Deli and Sandwich Bar, Commercial Street, Halifax
The Mushroom Sandwich Shop, The Kiosk, Gooder Street, Brighouse

Two stars:
Franco’s Pizzeria, Lineholme Mill, Burnley Road, Todmorden
Green Door Catering Company, Halifax Road, Ripponden
Grosvenors, Borough Market, Market Street, Halifax
Gusto, Water Street, Todmorden
Hebden Royd Primary School, Church Lane, Hebden Bridge
King Balti and Big Pizzeria, Bath Place, Halifax
Pockets Leisure Centre, Hollins Mill, Rochdale Road, Todmorden
Royal Oak Inn, Lower Edge Road, Rastrick
T Richardson and Son, Borough Market, Market Street, Halifax
Top Wok, Queen’s Road, King Cross
Towngate Groceries, Towngate, Sowerby
Travellers Rest, Stainland Road, West Vale

One star:
Ali Halal Meat, Hanson Lane, Halifax
Broadwood, Duke Street, Elland
Costermonger, Burnley Road, Todmorden
Crown Tandoori, Crown Street, Halifax
Dodgeholme Fisheries, Dodge Holme Drive, Mixenden, Halifax
Fortune Cookie Takeaway, Ovenden Road, Halifax
Marybeth Cafe, Burnley Road, Todmorden
Ovenden Kitchen, Ovenden Road, Halifax
Rastrick Spice Takeaway, New Hey Road, Rastrick
Saffron Restaurant and Takeaway, Oldham Road, Sowerby Bridge
Saghirs, Barum Top, Halifax
Zaika, Burnley Road, Todmorden
Zizzis, Waterhouse Street, Halifax

Zero stars:
Ronaldo/Khyber Kebab Centre, Wharf Street, Sowerby Bridge
Sultan Mahal, Westgate, Halifax

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They say, never judge a book by it’s cover. The same can be said about wine. I have one criteria that I use to judge a good wine and that is how good is it to drink?  Beverage quality and safety is not a science known only to the big wine producers.

I have bought so many expensive wines only to be completely and utterly disappointed that now I have absolutely no inhibitions about buying wine for one tenth of the price. Some small and quite obscure winerys are making very superior wines for a fraction of the price that you would pay for a Chateau Rothschild, for instance. To  find good cheaper wines I make a habit of going to my favorite wine merchants on days when he is having a wine tasting open day and make a point of tasting a good few of the cheaper wines as well as the more expensice ones. A good merchant, if he knows that you have an open mind, will give you tips about “little gems”  he has found. To be honest, usually it is enough to see the wine against the light to know it’s quality 

Generally speaking, about one third of the wines are not worth a second thought. One third are about the standard that you might expect from a three star restaurant and one third are really worth drinking. On deciding which wines I really like, I buy about two or three crates of assorted wines ranging from cabernet sauvignon to beaujolais.  I try do this about every couple of months.

I never let my dinner guests know that they are drinking bargain basement choices because all wine at my table is decantered. All that they ever know is that they are drinking a wine that is well worth drinking. It also gives me a sense of pride to know that I am helping lesser vineyards to raise their heads and take their true place among the established vineyards as truly good wine making professionals. The condition for this is that they continue to produce wines of a superior standard at competitive prices.

Some say that there is a lot of snobbery around the subject of wine drinking. I tend to agree with that to a degree because people who pay great sums for their wine, often have little or no idea of the wine making process. I have, in the past, tasted really expensive wines to which hydrochloric acid has been added in an attempt to cover up faults in the fermentation process. To those who know about wine, that is one of the most grievous cardinal sins possible to commit. Hydrochloric acid, when diluted to a concentration of five percent is synthetic vinegar. I don’t know about you but I most certainly do not want vinegar in my wine.

Adding hydrochloric acid is a technique that is sometimes used by winemakers who have fouled up the natural acid balance within the wine. By adding hydrochloric acid they are able to cover their mistakes to some degree and hopefully, those who are not experts in wine tasting will never know the difference.

If vineyards are faced with the eventuality of selling the majority of their years production as red wine vinegar they are tempted to use such inferior tactics. So, beware. It’s well worth Joining a good wine tasting course so that you’ll know the difference between good and bad wine and indeed, learn how to enjoy your wine much more.

Part of making really great wine has to do with maintaining correct hygiene conditions. We should always remember that the wine making process uses the yeast which is a naturally occuring micro-organism which grows on the skin of the grape. During the fermentation process the grape juice can pick up many forms of cross contamination in the form of various types of bacteria or undesirable forms of fungus which, if not prevent from entering the grape juice, will spoil or reduce the quality of the final wine. Cross contamination may well be the main cause of wine spoilage. All wineries are susceptible to  contamination precicely for the reason that they are processing a product which comes straight out of a fiels where it has been exposes to the surrounding environment for many months.

So, the message is that there is no absolute connection between the drinkability of wine and price. You will find many, many excellent wines from non label wine makers. Take a little time to discover those you like, enjoy the thrill of discovering priceless gems in the most unexpected places and save yourself a whole lot of money at the same time.

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In our modern world there’s no question that we all live longer and healthier lives than our forefathers. In saying that we have to remember that life has, in many ways, greater demands on us and we need to stay super fit to remain competitive. Our environment is constantly churning out poisonous chemicals  that react with Free oxygen in our bodies. These chemicals cause damage which we call free radical damage. Free radicals also play a crucial role in areas of food hygiene both directly and indirectly.

Many types pf anti oxidants are used in the food industry. These anti oxidants play a number of roles. Some are used to counter bad odors in food. These odors can come from a number of different causes. Poultry, especially turkey often has unpleasant odors even though the meat itself is not contaminated.  A lot of this has to do with the way the animal is reared.

Battery grown turkeys are reared in very crowded conditions. There is a lot of dust in the air and the turkeys droppings accumulate as deep litter  more and more until the turkey is literally walking on a layer of droppings that can reach one foot in thickness. In these conditions the birds feathers are constantly in contact with droppings and as you know the feathers pass through the skin into the  lower lawyers of tissue. In conditions such as these there is absolutely no way that the meat of the turkey will not be affected by the conditions in which the turkey is forced to live.

It is for this reason that the poultry meat industry uses antioxidants to counter the odors of turkey meat.

Other reasons for using anti-oxidants in the food industry include to increase the shelf  life of products by using natural anti-oxidizing substances that will help to prevent chemical reactions within the meat that can cause bacteria to begin to develop.

So antioxidants play a crucial role in the food industry which has very clear implications for food hygiene by preventing the development of undesirable qualities within potentially vulnerable products and by lowering the risk of contamination through the neutralization of free radicals that help harmful bacteria to develop.

At a personal level we can lower the risk of free radical harm by making sure that we have a sufficient intake of natural antioxidants. By providing our bodies with a constant supply of antioxidants we fortify the anti-oxidizing systems already in place within our bodies. This makes the fight against disease easier for our natural defenses.

In this lens I will talk about and give you ideas on how you can slow down free radical damage, quite considerably By making drinks from fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are all readily available to us in our grocer’s store or which we can grow in our gardens, it we are lucky enough to have access to a plot of land.

Vegetables, Fruits And Herbs For Making Health Drinks.

 Here’s a list of products that you can use to make anti-oxidizing drinks:

Fruits:
Kiwi, Persimmon, Noni, Papaya, Cranberry, hibiscus (a flower), blueberry, blackberry, red currant, elderberry, Black currant, bilberry Carob, acai berries, Strawberry, Apple, Passion fruit, Tamarind, red grapefruit.

Vegetables:
Broccoli, carrots, peas, snow peas, alfalfa sprouts, sunflower sprouts, bamboo sprouts, red cabbage, tomatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, green cabbage, red peppers, pine nuts, wheat grass, onions, Spring Onions, garlic, beetroot, asparagus, aloe Vera, hops, Fennel Kale.

Herbs and Spices:
Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Basil, oregano, wild hyssop, coriander, parsley, dill, tarragon, mint, Louisa, melissa, lemon grass, ginger, aniseed, cumin seed, cardamon seed, caraway seed, vanilla pod, Clove.

Note: The dry seeds need to be re hydrated before use. Do this in water that has ice in it in the fridge.

Aloe Vera and carob come in the form of concentrates which can be bought at health food stores or at really good department stores or hypermarkets.

The first recipe that I would like to tell you about is really great for people who suffer from stomach problems and it contains a few things not in the product list above.

I like to prepare this drink on a base of carrot juice because it is gentle on the stomach.

Ingredients:
carrots, ginger, aloe vera, lemon grass, stevia (best from “sunrider”),

Extract juice from carrots and a decent sized piece of ginger. Add about 25ml. of aloe vera concentrate, extract juice from lemon grass, add about 10 drops of stevia per glass. MIX AND DRINK.
For optimal results this recipe should be taken 3-4 times a day. Stevia is a natural sweetener and has the added benefit of speeding up the recovery of stomach lesions.

Fruit Detox Drinks

*Here’s another of my recipes that’s really tasty.

Ingredients: Persimmon, Kiwi, Papaya, Passion fruit.

This recipe is a tropical delight and it doesn’t matter how much of which to put in. Just use as much as you have or experiment to find your favorite combination.

*Another favorite of mine is mixed berries. This can be a little expensive if the berries are out of season so go by what you can afford.

Red currant, Bilberry, Blackberry, blackberry and Cranberry,

Mix in a blender, Blitz and then pass through juicer or just drink.

*A real favorite is a strange combination to many people but it works really well.

Ingredients:
Carob, Tamarind, Carrot juice And Acai Berry (a Brazilian palm fruit).

The secret here is to use the carob to sweeten the mixture. Just put everything through the Juice extractor and stir well or blend.

*The next recipe involves hibiscus flowers which should be bought dried from your health food store. Put a couple of tablespoons of hibiscus in boiling water and leave to stand until the water is dark red.

To this add red grapefruit, apple juice and elderberry juice or juice of any other berry.

So I’ve given you a few ideas for great detoxifying drinks but really you can mix anything out of the list I gave you in any combination. A general rule of thumb when making your mixes is to mix different colors. The different colors have different antioxidant groups in them. Also, try to make your drinks as pulpy as possible, that way you are also taking advantage of the dietary fiber within the fruit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2019 Food Hygiene Essentials