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noodles-187050_1920Human beings have always needed packaging in one form or another. Some of the earliest types of packaging are still around today, for example reed baskets. Initially all packaging was made from natural materials, because it had to be.

Woven bags and wooden boxes were among the first. As more materials were developed and processed they too became of use as packaging.

During the 19th century, and as a result of the industrial revolution, packaging became far more advanced. Tin cans and the first cardboard boxes emerged. Later still, in the early 20th century, plastics and aluminium were incorporated into packaging, around the same time we were becoming more and more aware of food safety and food hygiene.

We have made huge advances in both packaging and food safety.

Today packaging is a highly scientific field, it also requires technological and artistic understanding, as well as in-depth product knowledge. There are hundreds of high profile careers within the industry, including ‘Packaging Engineering’. Subjects studied for this qualification are varied, basic engineering, basic science, and business, food safety, recycling, even robotics! It is an industry that is always advancing.

Some functions of packaging;

Containment of product
Protection of product (physically and hygienically)
Product control- e.g. tamper evident opening
Product information
Marketing and branding of product/retailer
Provides controlled sized portions/amounts of product

As our global awareness of the environment increases, our priorities and requirements of what packaging should be changes. A now commonly used phrase – ‘Reduce, Re-use, Recycle’ is of great importance where packaging is concerned. Sustainable packaging is an area in which experts are particularly keen to develop.

Packaging has become more than just a means of easily transporting or containing products and is currently categorised into packaging types;

Primary – usually in direct contact with product e.g. brown kraft paper bags
Secondary- contains primary packaging and product, e.g. a multi-pack of crisp packets
Tertiary- involves warehouse storage and transport of bulk products, e.g. pallets

Within these types of packaging are more type-specific fields, e.g. drugs or food.

Food packaging is a specialist subject within the packaging industry, and works closely with the U.K’s governing body for all food legislation and safety, ‘The UK Food Standards Agency’. Food safety entails scientifically researched rulings on all aspects of food to prevent food borne illnesses.

We all expect there to be specific rules and guidelines in place for Dental Surgery Assistants, or Hospital Nurses to prevent illness or disease through the spreading of bacteria and viruses, but would you expect such rules to be in place for food? Well they are!

The UK Food Standards Agency provides the food industry and the general public with well researched, easy to access information regarding food and food safety, it also enforces laws on, for example, required standards on food packaging materials.

A great deal of scientific research is undertaken to ensure all materials which contact food at any stage of its handling is safe, from food containers, to the ink used in food product labelling. It is their responsibility to ensure the public is kept safe from harmful chemicals through related materials. There are specific rules in place for specific materials, plastics, for example have a whole list of laws for themselves.

On the UK Food Standards Agency website there are notes on ‘Guidance on the Plastic Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (England) Regulations 2009, available for associated businesses to read. It also provides information on which legal body represents particular materials, so you know who you are legally required to obey.

In 2004 a new European Regulation was introduced regarding food contact materials, and the UK Food Standards Agency was responsible for representing our countries interests. Their primary goal was ensuring UK citizens are still kept safe from risk of harmful chemicals in food contact materials when on holiday in Europe. This is also available to read on their website.

The development, research, and governance of food packaging both for supermarket food and for home-prepared food is vital not only for our convenience, but also for our safety. The next time you put your sandwiches into ‘food safe polythene bags’ or your children come home with sweets in’ candy stripe paper bags’ think how many experts have made it safe enough for us all to use.

Many thanks to the team at http://www.onlinepackagingshop.co.uk for helping with the article. When it comes to retail packaging supplies, all you need to do is visit them.

Let the click of the mouse steer you to the best place to buy Food Safe Packaging on the Internet. They have got your food safe packaging needs covered.

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

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.

salmonella-549608_1280Today’s post is a story that I heard from a colleague about a vegetable processing plant that became infected with salmonella and e. coli.

Please understand that this is a major international company and it is for this reason that I cannot disclose any names in the content of this article. This particular plant buys vegetables of all sorts directly from large farms and after grading, cleaning and sorting the vegetables are frozen and packed for the consumer and institutional markets.

The company in question works with just two or three trucking companies which bring the raw materials to the plant and deliver shipments of finished product to the local and foreign markets. Good relationships had been established with the trucking companies which included both the haulage companies and the factory itself helping each other out as much as possible as a matter of course. This factory had the best weigh bridge in the area and one of the favors that was performed on an ongoing basis was to weigh trucks of the said three companies even though the payload of the trucks had nothing to do with the business of the factory.

Complaints had been arriving at the factory’s quality control department stating that their products had tested positive for salmonella and e.coli. The factory checked all of their production lines to check that everything was working as it should and indeed no faults were found inside the factory itself.

A decision was taken to bring in an expert in the area of HACCP’s. and indeed it took him a mere five minutes to discover the source of the problem. Many different types of trucks were coming in to be weighed. Among them were trucks hauling the following cargoes: cages for chickens and turkeys being shipped from farms to slaughter houses, deep litter from dairy farms and poultry farms, various types of manure, and soil.

Trucks carrying these loads often waited for quite some time alongside trucks hauling vegetables for the factory itself. Dust and spray that inevitably flew from one truck to another was enough to cause the cross contamination of the vegetables with whatever the other truck was hauling.. This was a very basic and critical flaw in the work procedures and food hygiene standards of this particular factory. This situation was more than enough to cause this food hygiene crisis for this particular factory.

A decision was instantly taken to stop the weighbridge service to all trucks not carrying vegetables specifically for the plant. In this particular case, good intentions led to a very bad result.

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.

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A few weeks ago a leading Israeli fruit juice manufacturing plant had several hundred tons of water melon concentrate condemned by the ministry of heath on the pretext that there were unacceptable contaminants within the juice.

The concentrate in question was destined for use on the home market where it is used by the ice cream and iced lollie factories to manufacture a popular range of water melon flavored products. This set back has put additional pressure on a market sector which is already struggling to survive the current market recession.

Israel has suffered several consecutive years of very low rainfall. The sea of Galilee which is the major fresh water reservoir for Israel and it’s neighbours has reached dangerously low levels and as a result of this crisis water prices have risen several fold. As a result of this new state of affairs the profit margins in which vegetable and fruit growers operate have been cut even further and it is really uncertain from year to year if it will be worth growing anything at all.

The jordan valley which enjoys a milder winter than many other parts of Israel is famous for producing early fruit and vegetable harvests both for the home and export markets.

Seemingly, some of the areas water melon growers took it upon themselves to irrigate this years water melon harvest that was intended for industry with grey water instead od fresh water. The logic behind this decision being that grey water does not contain more contaminants than those already presant in ordinary soil.

What is not clear is if the water used for irrigation was indeed just grey water or if the suppliers of the grey water added certain quantities of first stage black water filtrate to the grey water that was being supplied to the farmers. It is also possible that the farmers used grey water for the initial stages of germination and consequent stages before the development of the water melon itself, switching over to fresh water once the melon began to develop. In any case, whatever the sequence of events was, contaminants entered the melons.

Samples of the water melon concentrate were tested both for chemical and microbial contaminants and found to test positive for both categories of contaminates within the concentrate. the concentrate was deemed to be a risk to public health and presented a food hygiene problem. The water melon concentrate was condemned and will not be used to make the iced products that it was intended to make.

The case is being looked into more closely by the public prosecutors office and charges are expected to be issued to those responsible for taking these regretable discisions to used contaminated water for growing water melons.

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.

1573Add to Technorati FavoritesI was asked to help solve a problem concerning cross contamination and product quality control in one of the smaller fruit juice factories in our area yesterday. The factory in question has a capacity to produce 72,000 liters of various fruit juices, fruit drinks and fruit nectar and ice teas. The factory basically consists of two departments, a mixing department and a bottling department. The products are either packed in glass bottles, plastic bottles or tetra pak cartons.

All of the concentrates are poured into the 18,000 liter vats via a barrel tipping machine and a suction device for rotoplasts. The concentrates are pumped through a pipe console which directs the concentrates in to one of four vats in the mixing department.

The factory had started producing tomato juice several months ago and since the onset of this production the company has been experiencing problems with the shelf life and color of products. They had tried every way they could imagine to clean the pipes leading into the tanks but to no avail. Tomato paste is very thick and viscose which makes it a difficult product to work with. Tomato paste tends to travel through pipes in pulses and because of this it coats the pipes evenly from the inside. Thinner and less solid substances such as caustic soda solution tends to run along the bottom of pipes and will only reach the top extremities for brief moments. This makes cleaning tomato paste particularly problematic.

I could smell the presence of tomato concentrate coming out of all of the pipes. There was no question that there was a grave danger of the tomato residue in the pipes fermenting. After a little thought this was my solution to the problem:

1) only to use two of the tanks for producing tomato paste. The effect this would have would be to reduce any possible risk by 50% from the outset.

2) to install separate feed pipes into those two tanks for tomato paste. This would leave the pipes for other products uncontaminated by tomato paste.

3) To dilute the tomato paste with 50% chilled water in a 500 liter mixing tank which was already on site.(2 degrees centigrade) prior to being pumped into the tanks. This would cause the concentrate to be less viscose and much easier to clean during the CIP process.

4)To dissemble and to clean the pump on the barrel tipping machine after every use.

5) To dissemble all pipes weekly and to immerse them in caustic soda solution.

6) To clean all pneumatic valves with a special industrial pipe cleaning brush from all directions.

At the end of the meeting with the department head, production manager, head of quality control and the general manager, all my suggestions were accepted and will be implemented within one working week. I will conduct a follow up check one month from today.

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Last Monday morning I received a phone call from the area superintendent of the department of public health. She told me that there was a steady stream of people falling sick due to eating food prepared by one of the large kitchens in our area. She continued to tell me that her department had been through the place with a fine tooth comb but still couldn’t find the source of the contamination. I arranged to meet them at the premises in question the following day to conduct an inspection.

To tell you the truth, I had a pretty good idea what I would be looking for because I had been to that particular kitchen several times in the past and had spotted a few things that seemed problematic. However, I had to make it seem as if I was earning my money so I decided that we would start somewhere quite far from the place that I suspected to be the problem.

We started by taking swabs of everything we saw and asked staff to provide swabs, blood, urine and stool samples. We checked the toilets of staff and diners alike and took swabs from all manner of cooking pots and trays,

I knew that this kitchen was using a type of bread basket within which to thaw meats and fish. The bread baskets were stacked one upon the other and left inside the two degree Celsius anti room of the freezer complex for up to four days. I also knew that the baskets were loaded onto a low level service trolley and brought up to the kitchen. I had known the chef of this kitchen for a number of years and I also knew that it was his practice to unload the baskets into plastic tubs after the lunch had gone out to the dining room. I always made a practice of doing this first thing in the morning before we started on the days chores.

What this meant was that the contents of the baskets were left to warm up from between seven o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock in the morning. This wasn’t a very good practice. Every chef has his ways but I knew that this was not the exact point I wanted to look at closely. What bothered me were the baskets themselves. I had a word with the chef and asked him to make an exception today and vacate the baskets earlier. What i notices was what I suspected. After rinsing the basket with water to remove the blood I saw that there was a light colored plaque stuck to the plastic. I took a scraper and saw that it came away fairly easily. I took scrapings from all the baskets used that day and then took the baskets to the aluminium washing machine to see what happened.

The man working on the machine proudly took a stack of five baskets and but them onto the machine and presses the operating handle down. The baskets disappeared into the machine for a few seconds and then came out. The worker informed me that this was a very efficient way of washing the baskets. he then placed them back onto the service trolley which had not been washed only sprayed with a water gun and placed the baskets next to the lift ready to by taken back down to the freezers.

The guy in charge of the freezer units the proceeded to re fill them with produce for another day. I had noticed several things, 1) the baskets had not been scrubbed with a stiff plastic brush of Brillo pad with detergent, 2) they had only been rinsed inside the machine which used high pressure but was ineffective due to the fact that the stacking of baskets inside the machine rendered the high pressure ineffective,3) chicken, beef, pork and fish had been set out to thaw in the same tower of eight baskets.

All of this led us to believe that we had quite possibly found the missing link of the food contamination dilemma. What had been happening was that liquid released from the thawing meat and fish had been dripping onto the plaque in the bottom of the baskets which in turn had been dripping onto the neat inside the baskets below. Then we discovered something else. The worker who had been handling the baskets went to work on the dish washing machine that cleaned the crockery and cutlery merely wiping his hands on a towel and removing his plastic apron before going onto the dish washing machine. It was his job to remove the clean cutlery off the dish washing machine. We clearly saw that he could be contaminating the cutlery.

All we needed to do now was to take the cultures we had taken back to the lab and have them checked out. These were the findings. Camphilobacter, Staph Aureus, Salmonella, e. coli, vibrio an listeria were all present in large quantities within the plaque which we removed from the bread baskets. Our findings were relayed to the company management with the following recommendations. All bread baskets to receive immediate soaking in caustic soda. 2) All bread baskets to be scrubbed individually before putting them onto the aluminium machine,3) all bread baskets to be put into the aluminium machine individually and 4) all bread baskets to receive a weekly soaking in caustic soda. 4) aluminium machine worker was to thoroughly wash his hands and change overalls before helping out anywhere else.

A re check will be conducted in two weeks from the day all the baskets were washed in caustic soda.

© 2019 Food Hygiene Essentials