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Molds are in fact everywhere. They are a part of nature that we simply cannot get away from. However, molds are most active in places where they have cold, dampness and a source of food. This makes cold storage facilities for fruit and vegetables ideal places for molds to thrive.age-1238304_1920

Fruit and vegetables may sit in cold storage facilities for weeks, sometimes months. The air inside is stale, high in carbon dioxide which is also good for molds. Mold forms mostly on the walls and the ceiling of cold stores where they form spores. Spores are released in waves into the air and float down to settle upon the skin of Fruits and vegetables.

As the spores develop they produce tiny microscopic like structures that penetrate under the skin of the host and begin to soak up nutrients for digestion. If left long enough, these molds cells will connect until they take on the appearance that we are all familiar with, a green-grey furry coating.

Molds can seriously deplete the nutrient value of the host, soaking up vitamins and all kinds of phytonutrients which we believe we are getting when we buy fresh vegetable or fruit produce. What is more, because the produce is picked unripe, mold actually has an advantage over the produce because the plant has not fully developed its protection systems against mold and other microorganisms. The mold, actually reduces the acidity of the unripe produce.

Although most molds do not directly cause us disease, if we are healthy, it does indirectly help other microorganisms to gain an advantage over us by reducing the level of vital compounds in the food that we need to keep the body fit and disease resistant.

Now some companies are combating this phenomena by producing nutritional food supplements that have been made out of fully ripe and fresh vegetables. Such supplements undergo special procedure to separate a high percentage of phytonutrients from other parts of the plant structure such as sugars, carbohydrates and cellulose pulp. One such Company is Juice Plus. Their product is made from a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, thirty in fact. This gives the body a large compliment of nutrients that substitute what is lost in normal nutrition due to poor storage conditions. In fact, even if we buy farm fresh produce we would be hard pressed to eat such a large variety of fruit and vegetables every day so in this sense we are supplying the body with as much as we can for it to work with.

 

asian-1239272_1920Food makes the holidays more festive. At this time of year you enjoy family dinners, church potlucks, office parties, buffet lunches, cookie exchanges, and cups of cheer. Gifts are exchanged, too, and food poisoning is the “gift” you don’t want.

Though it’s relatively rare in the US, food poisoning can happen to anyone, according to MedlinePlus. That doesn’t mean much if you’re the one who gets it. You may get food poisoning at home or while traveling. Each year 60-80 million (that’s MILLION) people around the globe get food poisoning.

If you’ve had food poisoning you know it’s awful, so awful you thought you were going to die. Some people do die. The FDA says food poisoning is especially threatening to kids five years old and younger, and the elderly. E.coli can cause hemolyptic uremic syndrome, which can lead to kidney damage and, in some cases, death.

The symptoms of food poisoning are nasty: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headaches, and weakness. Food poisoning strikes within two-to-four hours after eating contaminated food and it can last as long as 10 days. Prevetion is the best defense against food poisoning.

Mayo Clinic, in an Internet article called “Serve it Up Safe: 8 Ways to Prevent Food-Bourne Illness,” lists some prevention tips, such as washing linens often and washing equipment, including your meat thermometer, in hot, soapy water. To be in the safe side, the article says you should reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Practice safe food handling during the holidays. Unsure about what to do? The USDA Food and Safety Inspection Service has published a colorful booklet called “Cooking for Groups.” You’ll find the booklet on www.FoodSafety.gov. You’ll find additional information on www.fightingbac.org. And follow these tips to keep your tummy safe during the holidays.

AT HOME

1. Wash your hands well before handling food.

2. Use paper or cloth dishcloths, not sponges.

4. Separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods.

5. Store washed produce in a different container, not the original.

6. Keep cold foods at 40 degrees or less.

7. Keep hot foods at 140 degrees or more.

8. Double-bag leaking meat and poultry packages or seal them in plastic wrap.

9. Thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

10. NEVER eat frozen meat, poultry or fish that has been thawed and refrozen.

11. Check internal temperature of meat and poultry with a thermometer.

12. Use a clean spoon every time you taste food.

13. Clear leftover food quickly and refrigerate.

AT WORK

1. Ask a knowledgable person to be in charge.

2. Refrigerate donated food immediately.

3. Wash hands before handling food. (Buy several bottles of hand sanitizer.)

4. Label foods so people know what they’re eating.

5. Tell people if food contains nuts or soy.

6. Serve food in small batches, not all at once.

7. Keep mayonnaise-based foods icy cold.

8. Keep hot foods really hot.

9. Don’t leave food out for more than two hours.

10. Provide clean storage containers for leftovers. Write the food and date on all containers.

11. Discard food that hasn’t been refrigerated for more than four hours.

AT A RESTAURANT

1. Check to see if food handlers are wearing plastic gloves.

2. Find out if the food handlers are handling money. (Money is often contaiminaed with human feces.)

3. Is there a cough shield over the food table?

4. Skip the salad bar if the ingredients aren’t on ice.

5. Check to see if the restaurant has a clean plate policy for additional servings of salad.

6. Don’t eat salad dressing that’s in open bowls on the table.

7. Make sure hot food is kept in warming pans, kettles, and hot plates.

8. Each dish should have its own serving spoon or fork.

9. Servers should bring buffet foods out in small batches.

10. Does the menu say all beef will be cooked to medium temperature?

11. Hamburgers should be cooked until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.

12. Write the food and date on your doggie bag/box.

“Everyone is at risk for foodbourne illness,” according to the FDA’s Food Safety Education Website. That makes food safety your business. Call the local public health department if you see unsafe food practices. And follow the FDA’s advice during the holidays: When in doubt throw it out!

Copyright 2005 by Harriet Hodgson. To learn more about her work go to http://www.harriethodgson.com/.

Harriet Hodgson has been a nonfiction writer for 27 years and is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Before she became a health writer she was a food writer for the former “Rochester Magazine,” in her hometown of Rochester, MN. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from http://www.amazon.com. A five-star review of the book is also posted on Amazon. The book is packed with Healing Steps – 114 in all – that lead readers to their own healing path.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Harriet_Hodgson

Food poisoning is something that is becoming more and more commonplace. Sadly, we are seeing more and more news items about salmonella, staphylococcus and similar harmful bacteria, and the havoc they can cause.

To say that encountering this complaint would spoil your whole day would be a gross understatement. In fact you’re likely to spend several days recovering from it. In extreme cases it can be fatal.

So is there any way to make sure you never succumb to food poisoning? Well, there may be no infallible approach, but you can certainly act in such a way that your chances of becoming a victim are drastically reduced.

Personal hygiene is a good starting point. This question is perhaps a trifle taboo, but I’m going to ask it anyway – do YOU wash your hands after going to the toilet? If you don’t, you will after reading this. This is to me the most basic and essential step in keeping even a reasonable level of personal cleanliness. Yet so many people neglect to do this. To me, that’s just asking for trouble sooner or later, and is in any event a betrayal of everyone else you come into contact with.

Who do you think really wants to share with you the myriad of germs and microbes that you have on your hands immediately after attending to the bodily functions that we all have to attend to several times a day? And you will share them with everyone who touches almost anything fairly soon after you’ve touched it, or with whom you shake hands. It’s the reason why most PC keyboards are as rife with germs as a toilet seat.

I still see people coming out of public lavatories without so much as a glance at the wash basins. Yet they’ve been in a place rife with both air borne and surface bound germs and microbes. The very smell of them broadcasts their nature. Until such people actually DO wash their hands everything they touch will be contaminated with the harmful bacteria and shigella that is without doubt increasing and multiplying on their hands.

For this reason I always wash my hands carefully every time I return home from a trip out, even if I’ve only been to the corner shop. It makes sense, doesn’t it?

If all the doctors and nurses, patients and visitors, hospital workers and porters and everyone else to be found in hospitals simply washed their hands after doing what we all have to do a few times a day, then all the so-called hospital super-bugs, the MRSA and everything else that we spend millions of pounds or dollars trying to fight each year, all of it would simply disappear.

However, don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Always make a point of washing your hands thoroughly before preparing food. If the ingredients of the meal include meat, fish, fowl or eggs then wash after each time you’ve handled them.

The next point is to never eat raw food that comprises meat, fish, fowl, milk or eggs. Sea food is especially prone to harbour harmful bacteria, so be particularly careful when eating this. Wash all food under the cold tap before cooking or eating.

Above 65.5 or below 4.5. Those are the figures to remember concerning the temperatures in degrees Celsius or Centigrade in which bacteria cannot multiply. That’s why raw food has to be kept chilled until it is ready for cooking, when it should be heated to at least the temperature required to kill bacteria.

To be sure of this, meat should be cooked until there is no more pink left in it, fowl until none of the joints are red and fish should be flaking by the time it’s taken out of the oven.

If using a microwave oven you should use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Keep meat gravy or juice away from other food. Use separate utensils, chopping board, etc for meat and other animal products on the one hand and everything else on the other. Wash them with bleach or lathered water afterwards. In fact wash the whole kitchen work top area regularly and always after preparing dishes containing animal products. Replace sponges regularly and use paper kitchen towels for wiping down.

Food that’s been left at room temperature for 2 hours or more can be contaminated, especially if it is high in protein, eg meat, eggs, chips.

Be careful when defrosting meat or poultry, as the surface will defreeze more quickly than the inside. Bacteria may therefore be growing on the outside by the time the inside is unfrozen. Defreeze it in the refrigerator to avoid this problem. If keeping anything for another meal, replace it in the refrigerator immediately. And never keep meat or poultry, or fish, above vegetables or other kinds of non-meat food in the refrigerator in case anything falls down to cause contamination.

Trust your instincts. If food doesn’t somehow look right then it usually isn’t. A quick test with your nose should detect any tell-tale smell of decay or contamination.

Finally, eat your food slowly, relish it and allow your body and digestive system ample time and optimum conditions for digesting it. Bon appetit!

Philip Gegan is a writer and practitioner of Acupressure. He challenges you to read his advice and NOT be able to press away at least 10 kinds of pain, including headaches, colds, flu, hangovers, asthma, heartburn, and even… acne(!) at… http://www.pressawaypain.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Philip_Gegan

traditional-chinese-898567_1920Add to Technorati FavoritesMost people around the world have heard about the medicinal benefits of Chinese herbal remedies. These time tested traditional potions have maintained the one of the worlds largest and indeed greatest cultures for thousands of years. Today, few would dispute the benefits of herbal medicines in the hands of experienced and reputable practitioners.

In the advent of the computer age Chinese traditional medicine has gained a great deal of exposure through the Internet. Now there are a great many companies which sell herbal medicines over the Internet. Herbs, like all other organic substances are susceptible to all sorts of microbial infestations which can greatly compromise the quality of the plant and hence the product which you buy. Herbs infested with moulds, viruses or any of the many types of bacteria can loose most if not all of their beneficial medicinal properties and can even become dangerous to consume.

Herbs which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, like any other other cash crop are grown in fields or collected from the wild, they are then harvested, graded,cut to size,dehydrated, checked by quality control (hopefully), packed, stored in warehouses and finally shipped to the store where you buy them or sent directly to you if you buy via direct marketing routes. As you can see, plants used in traditional medicine go through many handling processes before they become the final product which you but. Every time the plant is handled, something of it’s original integrity and quality is lost. This is inevitable in any industry and each stage presents opportunities for cross contamination if the product is handled improperly. As with any product good manufacturing procedures (GMP) are an absolute necessity. Unfortunately, not all people who market traditional Chinese herbs are reputable manufacturers and great care must be taken in choosing which company to buy from.

Usually, the more high tech the facilities of a factory are, the higher product standards will be. Today, a number of Chinese companies are offering medicinal herbs in freeze dried form The advantages of freeze drying are that the raw materials used have to be of a high standard to ensure a stable end product. Secondly, freeze drying is a great way of preserving as many of the original qualities of the plant as possible. Thirdly, because freeze drying is a very quick process, there is no tome for bacterial or mould spores to form and oxidization is prevented. This means that from a food hygiene standpoint you are safeguarded against such micro organisms forming during usage. Fourthly, Freeze dried products deteriorate at a much slower rate than with other methods that are in use, among other things this means that the anti oxidizing properties of the plant(s) are preserved.

Freeze drying also permits the manufacturer to be very inventive during the manufacturing process. He can make blends that are intended to ensure that you the customer get a guaranteed strength of active ingredient and he can also blend different types of herbs to formulate products to make ready to use infusions for specific medical conditions. In addition, ingredients which make a product more palatable can also be added.

Some of these companies claim to have hundreds of blends in their product range which cover a great many medical requirements. If you intend to use traditional Chinese medicine I would strongly recommend that you investigate the possibilities offered by freeze dried technology.

cheese-1278812_1920Food spoilage is really nothing more than a natural deterioration of organic matter. Everything in nature has to be broken down so that it can once again become part of the composition of soil. All of the various natural processes that participate in the spoilage of organic material are ultimately directed toward this aim.

Odor. Bad odor is a symptom of food spoilage. Foods that have a bad odor should be thrown out. We have already gone into the causes of foul refrigerator odor with regards the spilage of food. Yet there is another factor that we should take into consideration when talking about foul odors of food and that is that the odors can be soaked up by foods which have not spoiled and make them disagreeable to eat. In saying that, this problem does not only pertain to food which has spoiled. Nobody would like to eat a piece of cake that has adopted the odor and taste of smoked salmon, for instance. This is a major problem in the home kitchen. Luckily there are now products available that help to reduce the severity of refrigerator odor and foul taste transfer between foods. Now you can buy a refrigerator purifier that will prove invaluable in the prevention of refrigerator odor. This product is a real food saver. Small air filters for fridges are also available.

When we define food spoilage we can say that spoilage of food pertains any disagreeable change in the nature of food from the normal condition that we expect. These changes may compromise food hygiene. We are able to distinguish these changes through use of our senses. For instance, food may change visually, it may change in smell, to the touch or in taste. In saying that, we use some forms of what technically amounts to food spoilage, in a controlled way, to achieve a desired effect, as in Camembert cheese for instance. We crave the runiness of the cheese that is produced by specially selected bacteria and mould to produce an effect which many of us find pleasing to eat. Other examples of controlled food deterioration include Danish blue, Gorgonzola, Stilton and many other forms of cheese. We also tenderize meat such as game by jugging it or purposely speed up the deterioration process of meat when we inject lactbacillus bacteria into steak to mimic the ageing process. In short and in technical terms, food spoilage works for us easily as much as it works against us.

Nevertheless, food does spoil because once the fruit of vegetable has been picked or the animal has been slaughtered, the natural processes and defences of the organism are compromised and exposure to the outside environment causes a number of inevitable changes to occur.

The factors which bring about these changes include, air and oxygen, light, moisture, microbial growth factors and ambient temperature. Some of these changes indicate poor food hygiene and cross contamination and others point to chemical reactions and changes due to physical phenomina. Let’s go through the various causes.

Air and oxygen: Air comprises of about eighty percent nitrogen and about twenty percent oxygen. The level of oxygen in the air is too great for most organisms and therefore organisms have developed strategies to counter the harmful effects of oxygen. Our lungs are lined with a substance called surfactant. Surfactant provides a necessary barrier between the tissue of the lung and the oxygen in the air to counteract the caustic effect of the oxygen upon the lung tissue. Our bodies and the bodies of other organisms produce anti oxidants to counter other undesirable reactions of oxygen with substances called free radicals. By binding to free radicals, anti oxidants prevent reactions which are harmful to our bodies. When an organisms no longer has the support of it’s various physiological support systems, the chemical make up of the organism will start to react with the oxygen in the air.

Micro organisms which require the presence of oxygen in order to metabolize organic tissue, such as aerobic bacteria and moulds, are able to colonize those areas of the flesh which are exposed to the air. The will form colonies upon the food and start to metabolize the flesh of the organism and divide at a rate of one division every twenty minutes per bacterial cell. In some cases as few as one thousand bacteria can be enough to contitute a food hygiene risk.

Enzymes, particularly oxidizing enzymes, which react with oxygen also aid the process of food spoilage. In vegetables enzymes such as catase and peroxidase cause the familiar browning of the flesh of foods such as apples and potatoes. Enzymes are substances which speed up chemical reactions and enzymatic reaction with oxygen in organic matter causes the degeneration of the matter to hasten considerably. In cooking a rapid heat treatment known as blanching is used to cancel these enzymatic reactions. Enzymatic changes do not usually render food inedible but if combined with microbial infestation such as mould or certain bacteria the ingestion of such spoiled food would constitute a food hygiene risk.

Water: water is the most abundant substance in nature. All organisms are made up of at least seventy percent water. The water within an organism when it is alive is termed as bound water because it is chemically connected to other substances within the body. All living organisms maintain a certain level of chemical concentration. This is said to mimic the concentration of sea water from which all living organisms originate. Concentrated fluids flow around the cells and each cell contains within it a carefully controlled liquid environment. The balance between the concentration of the fluids which flow around the cell and the fluid which exists within the cell is carefully regulated by the central control system of the organism, whether it be plant or animal. In higher organisms this process is called homeostasis.

Once a plant or an animal has been cut into smaller parts, the tissues whose fluid environment was once carefully controlled are now exposed to the environment. When the organism’s flesh comes into contact with moisture a physical phenomenon occurs. All substances in nature try to match their concentration levels to other substances around them, This is called diffusion. The flesh of an organism, when exposed to water will soak up the water in an attempt to dilute the concentration levels within the flesh of the organism to the concentration levels around it. This may cause the cells of the organism to explode by being too full of water. This form of tissue deterioration is a major cause of food spoilage. This intake of moisture into the tissue of the food source is the perfect vector for micro organisms to infest it. This is a very good example of how food spoilage occurs and food hygiene breakdowns happen.

In addition, excess “free” water within or around the cell gives bacteria the perfect medium in which to operate. In bacterial terms this is like a super highway in which bacteria are able to spread throughout the flesh of an organism. Water within an organism can be controlled by a) dehydration, b) freezing or c by the addition of food preservatives.

Light: Spoilage of food which is caused by light is called photo degeneration. All food is exposed to light at some time or another. Light can be either natural light or artificial light. Light, like all other forms of energy is made up of different wave lenghts. At the outer ends of the light spectrum we have infra red and ultra violet light which can vary in intensity in different parts of the world. These forms of light radiation are known to be harmful and can cause dead and live tissue to react in negative ways.

Exposure to light sources can cause foods to change in nature. Pigments may change, as may vitamin levels, fats and proteins. In solid foods the density of the material such as in meat may block deep penetration of light and therefore the effects of light may only cause changes to happen on the surface of the product. In liquids light penetration can be much deeper and therefore the effects of photo degeneration can be much more substantial.

Microbial growth. Micro organisms play a vital role in the balance of nature. Bacteria and other types of microbes haves each evolved to fill a specific niche. Some bacteria have developed a symbiotic relationship relationship with living organisms and some have developed a parasitical relationship. Healthy organisms manage to keep parasitical bacteria at bay through their immune systems and homeostasis. However, parasitical bacteria are constantly on the look out for signs of weakness and it is their job to bring about the rapid demise of sick organisms and to ensure that they are re cycled back into the environment through the process of tissue deterioration and degeneration. In prehistoric times man did not store much food. He ate from hand to mouth and so food did not have much time to go off. Modern man, because of his lifestyle, needs to store food and to do this he needs to effect a different kind of environmental control in comparison to prehistoric man.

In a previous chapter I mentioned that psicrophilic bacteria can cause food spoilage at low temperatures. In cold climates landscapes freeze for many months and animals find it difficult to survive. Weaker animals die during the winter months and remain frozen until the beginning of the thaw in spring. Although thawed a carcass may remain too cold for many types of bacteria to develop and it is for this reason that certain bacteria adapted to this niche so that the detioration of the carcass could begin. This process helps to ensure that the period of time during which more pathogenic bacteria infest the carcass and hence spread into the environment is considerably lessened. This is the function and importance of psicrophilic bacteria in nature. We can control the undesirable effects of psicrophilic bacteria in our cold stores through the implementation of a good hygiene regime.

In general, sources of food contamination come from the environment particularly from, animal wastes, soil, water and air. Here the “Four stages of food hygiene” come into play. Great care must be taken to make sure that food comes from safe sources, that food does not come into contact with other bacterial sources, that bacteria does not have conditions for growth and that tools and work surfaces are kept free from bacteria. food hygiene regime and temperature is all critical here. Don’t make mistakes or cut corners and bacteria will not develop.

Temperature. Temperature is probably the single most important environment which we can control to prevent the spoilage of food. Temperature regulates several changes in the nature of organic matter. Firstly it slows down chemical reactions within the food. Secondly it can prevent the ggrowth development of bacteria or destroy bacteria through cooking, Temperature regulation can control the destruction of vitamins and prevent dehydration and ripening of food.

However, temperature need to be professionally controlled. Over freezing can cause surfaces to crack of the development of ice crystals at microscopic levels can puncture cells causing the flesh to become soft and pulpy. Pigment can be lost and chemicals within the food may react and loose much of their nutritious value. This process is commonly called freezer burning.

In cold stores vegetables and fruit are best held at temperatures of around 10 degrees Celsius. meats should be chilled to four degrees Celsius and frozen food should be stored at -18 degrees Celsius for a period not exceeding six months in most cases. Aaways make sure that you follow manufacturers storage instructions. If in doubt don’t be afraid to contact the manufacturer or importer to get their advise.

bacteria-108895_1920Pseudomonas bacteria are a genus of bacteria which exist widely in the environment. They are gram negative, rod shaped, non spore forming, motile, flagellated aerobes. Pseudomonas aeruginosea, probably the most well know of all pseudomonas strains, is an opportunistic pathogen that has the capability of adapting to many niches. It can infect animals and humans alike and can cross the species barrier and for this reason it is considered a potentially zoonotic pathogen. This type of bacteria is immune to many types of bacteria because it has within it’s cell wall a mechanism known as an efflux pump which pumps antibiotics back out of the cell before they have had time to take effect. It is the second most common bacterial contaminant in hospitals and it is known to be paticularly malicious in burn units where it prevents the regeneration of healthy tissue. Bacteria of the pseudomonas family are grown on blood agar which turns from a blood red color to a marine blue/green hue. It also gives off a quite pleasant slightly minty smell.

One form of Pseudomonas pathogen causes a highly contageous disease in horses which is also highly infectious to humans. The disease in horses is know as glanders because it affects the glands in and around the throat and jaws of the horse. This disease was common when colonial forces shipped large quantities of horses to places like Africa, the Middle East and the Far East. Now, this disease is more rarer. The scientific name of this pathogen is Pseudomonas Mallei and it is registered as one of the possible bacterial strains that could be used in bacterial warefare together with Clostridium Botolinum and Anthrax.

Other forms of Pseudonas bacteria are known to cause spoilage in food at low temperatures. These psicrophilic Pseudomonas strains include: P. fragi which causes spoilage of dairy products , P. taetrolens which causes mustiness in eggs and P. mudicolens, and P. lundensis, which causes spoilage of milk, cheese, meat, and fish.

The term spoilage is used in food hygiene for a condition by which the food takes on an unpleasant texture, color change smell taste. This does not mean that the food has necessarily become a serious health risk in the same way as if meat were infected with e.coli or salmonella, for instance, but at the same time it is definitely not advisable to eat spoiled food. It means that the food has been infected with bacteria which cause the physical nature of the food to change. For instance, meat may become slimy to the feel or the outer lawyer of certain foods may become pulpy, it may also smell slightly sour and change color. This happens to food which has been stored in refrigerated conditions for long periods of time in places which have not been properly cleaned with anti bacterial disinfectants. I often see this condition in places such as deli counters where meat is sliced in front of the customer.

However a little slime on meat, such as with cured pastrami in particular and with other types of processed meats is not always a sign of spoilage. It may well be due to a reaction between the protein of the meat, the curing chemicals and the air. Many manufacturers now use preservatives to prevent such spoilage. In addition, the reaction of the preservative with the air and other factors within the meat can cause the color of the product to change slightly as well. The color of the may become slightly irridescent or take on a greenish hue. If the meat smells even the slightest bit sour, feels or looks slimy or has a bad color refuse to accept it.

Spoiled food such as cured meats meat can cause stomach discomfort, diarrhea, vomiting or mild allergic symptoms in some people and may even become more serious in people whose immune system is compromised. Remember this central rule of food hygiene, “When in doubt throw it out”.

Fish products are particularly susceptible to spoilage and it can be very difficult to guess from a casual inspection if the deterioration of the fish is due to spoilage bacteria such as the psicrophilic pseudonmonas species stated above or if the cause is due to more dangerous, pathogenic forms of bacteria. If fish looks even slightly slimy, discolored or smells in the least sour don’t buy it or if it has turned bad in your fridge throw it out and clean you fridge thoroughly with disinfectant. (A tactic used by many fresh fish mungers to hide the tell tale smell of fish which has started to show signs of going off is to constantly pour sea water over it. Watch out for this trick. If you are not sure if you are smelling the actual fish or sea water, don’t buy the fish). Most importantly, keep all fish products in closed containers to avoid cross contamination with of by other food products in your fridge.

The same goes for eggs milk and cheese, if you distinguish any changes in color texture or smell, don’t take any risks, better to throw out and buy fresh. To lower the risk being sold spoiled or food which is about to spoil, buy only from supermarkets and stores which are very busy and have a high turnover of merchandise, particularly in the deli sections. Don’t be embarrassed to inspect what you buy, you are paying for fresh and healthy food and the decision to take what is on offer or not is entirely your own. The customer is always right. If you notice that the food you buy goes off quickly and you know that a). your fridge is clean and b). the temperature of the fridge is as it should be then take the food back to the store with your receipt and demand a refund or a fresh replacement. If the problem continues report your findings to your local authority for food hygiene.

animal-1239132_1920Add to Technorati FavoritesI would like to tell you about a case of food hygiene violation that I recently heard about. It occurred in England a few years ago. I have decided to write about this case, dispite the fact that it happened some time ago, because it shows very clearly the type of people that food hygiene inspectors have to contend with on an almost daily basis. This is a case of blatant disregard for authority and the safety and well being of the customers of the said business and the general public at large.

The case occurred in The city of Bradford which is in the county authority of West Yorkshire in England. Food hygiene and public health authorities received word that large Numbers of rats had been seen frequently behind a certain “greasy spoon” restaurant which was in the proprietorship of a gentleman of Asian origin. The restaurant in question sold cheap fried food to a local population which included English breakfasts, burgers, fish and chips, pies, baked beans and toasted sandwiches.

Bradford city inspectors decided to pay the business a spot visit in order to appraise the reports which they had received. On arrival the inspectors immediately saw that the report pertaining to the presence of large numbers of rats were indeed correct and on entering the premises they found that the kitchen area of the restaurant was in a very run down and unhygienic condition. All of the walls and cooking areas were coated in thick lawyers of congealed, stale grease. All the frying pans contained lawyers of lard which had not been changed for several days and showed evidence of rodent footprints sunken into the surface of the coagulated lard. Rodent and cockroach dropping were evident both on the floor and on shelves. Cockroaches had infested all equipment and storage spaces and the inspectors actually felt their feet sticking to the floor as they walked.

Out of date supplies were found in all areas of the kitchen, some showing signs of fermentation. Fridges had seemingly never been cleaned and all the shelving and walls of the fridges were covered in the remnants of previous uncleaned spillages. Draining boards and sinks were filthy and piles of unclean dishes filled the sinks.

When confronted about the state of the kitchen the owner of the restaurant simply said that everybody knows that “the dirtier the kitchen the better the food”. Shocked by this reply the inspectors wrote out an order closing the kitchen for a period of two weeks in which time the restaurant was to be brought up to a standard which conformed to food hygiene regulations. Notices were put into the windows informing the public that the restaurant was temporarily closed by order of the department of public health.

After the two weeks were up the health inspectors returned to the restaurant expecting the orders to have been carried out. To their utter bewilderment, not only did they find that absolutely nothing had been done but that the condition of the restaurant was actually much worse that it was at the previous inspection. When asked why he had taken no action to repair the state of his restaurant the proprietor answered that “it was contrary to the principles of his religion to receive orders from unbelievers”.

Shocked by this reply, the inspectors issued another writ of closure on the restaurant and gave him a summons to appear before a court of inquiry to answer the charges against him. After hearing the case the presiding judge ordered that the restaurant be permanently closed and that no restaurant should be re opened on that property. In addition the judge placed a lifetime ban upon the proprietor from ever opening a food business of any sort and issued a large fine upon the man.

We who concern ourselves with food hygiene and safety come across this type of case from time to time. The proprietor in question displayed blatant disregard for the health interests of his customers and the public at large. He violated the trust placed in him when he was awarded a licence to run a food business. He attempted to make cynical use of his religious beliefs to justify his actions and discriminated against the inspectors when he called them non believers. His crass, lazy and obstinate attitude worked against him and he got his just deserves.

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Food hygiene is a subject which is of concern to everybody in the world every day of their lives. To many people around the world the ability to find safe sources of food and water are very real questions of survival. Everybody has an interest in eating to maintain good health.

From a very early age we are taught that rancid food is bad for us and we posses physiological mechanisms which trigger very adverse reactions when we come across food which possesses qualities which do not suit those to which we recognizing as safe. Our parents teach us the guidelines which we use to appraise the edibility of our food and water.

Scientists have discovered that out prehistoric ancestors often scavenged for food but although they scavenged they still made sure that the food they ate was still quite fresh. Prehistoric man would follow carnivores as they hunted for food or would have followed other scavengers such as vultures which only eat fresh meat. By waiting for the carnivore to finish it’s meal from a safe distance primitive humans were able to quickly move in on a kill and eat the meat scraps that were still left on the bones and, seemingly, to eat the bone marrow inside the bones by developing the skill of crushing them with stones. Early man obviously competed with other scavengers for these spoils but smaller animals would have quickly learned that early man moved around with implements which could be used to attack. Namely the stones with which they split the bones to get at the bone marrow. This would have been the point in evolutions in which many animals learned to fear man.

By following carnivores to their kills early man would have been able to ensure that the meat he was eating was no more than a few hours old as as such was as fresh as was possible to hope for, given the circumstances of those primitive conditions. In order to ensure that he was second only to those top predators, man had to establish himself as second in the pecking order for food. Yet although primitive man was second only to the top predators in pecking order in one sense it would have been an absolute necessity to develop the skills necessary to control the environment around the kill zone for several reasons. The first reason the first reason would have obviously been to ensure personal safety. Another reason would have been having the ability to chase off the predator once he has eaten enough and was too tired to resist effectively. Yet another reason would have been to prevent the carcass being stolen by rival human tribes or other animal species. However one cannot dismiss that a major reason in establishing a high level of control around the kill zone and making a timely move in on the spoils would have been to ensure that they meat still left on the carcass was still fresh enough to eat. So this sense of timing would have been a key factor in the food hygiene regime of early man.

My personal estimation is that this time period would have been anything from one to six hours after the kill. We also know that prehistoric man had a much more robust immune system that we do today. Things that primitive man could eat to no ill effect would make us quite ill. The range of foods which he would have eaten was far more extensive that what we eat (with the possible exception of the Chinese). Cooking and sterilization of food would only become known to man after he attained the ability to make and control fire.

So from these facts we know that food hygiene, at a very basic level has always been a fundamental concern to mankind.

Question. Could the necessity to chase carnivores and other scavengers from a carcass have brought about the advent of designing and using weapons as we know then in more recent history? Could having an array of weapon choices have provided prehistoric man with the ability to further control a hunt scene by hunting alongside certain species of carnivores (such as canines) while both they and their quarry were distracted by the hunt? Could this possible situation have led to the eventual alliance between man and canine? Would the realization of the benefits of developing the skills needed to exploit such opportunities have played a key role in the evolutionary development of mankind and eventually lead to his gaining the ability of placing himself at the top of the animal kingdom hierarchy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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