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Cheesemaking is an area of food hygiene that requires particular attention to cleaning. It is not enough to use ordinary detergents in cheesemaking, special detergents are sold to dairies by their dairy products suppliers. This includes the chemicals used for cleaning the pasteurising machines. In fact, a good cheesemaker spends around 50% of his time cleaning.

Cheese can only be made in vats that can tolerate being washed in caustic soda. This means that the only metal that can be used is stainless steel. All vats and stainless steel work surfaces must be washed after each job, after the end of the working day and before work begins in the morning. This also includes milk holding tanks and their pipes which are washed in an internal washing system using caustic soda in water that is heated to 65-70 degrees Centigrade.

The soda is sprayed into the tank by a pump via a rotating sprinkler. After the cycle has worked for the correct period the soda is sent into the drain, the tank is then sprayed by hand to get rid of all soda residue, including sending some through the sprinkler, then filled with an adequate quantity of fresh water which is pumped through the pipes to wash out any soda remaining in them. The pasteuriser is also undergoes CIP (cleaning in place), as soon as the milk has been pasteurised and also at the beginning of every working day before milk is passed through it to be pasteurised.

Cheese dairies usually only work making one type of cheese. However, some “boutique” dairies make a selection of cheeses. It is important to keep the production of cheese that incorporate the use of molds well away from cheeses that do not have molds in them because because it is almost impossible to prevent mold cross contamination. Even a single mold spore in a block of maturing cheese can cause it to go runny and take on entirely different characteristics from those desired and the whole maturation room will be infected with cheese mold spores.

If you make cheeses remember these principles. When making cheeses nothing else should be in the area during the whole process. Personal hygiene is of utmost importance. Hands washed to the elbow in very hot water and detergent, no rings, no watches, no bracelets. Wear gloves whenever handling milk products and change gloves if they are surgeons gloves or wash them frequently in hot water and detergent if they are not disposable ones.

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

child-818432_1920By: Mila Sidman
So your baby is ready for solids! It’s always exciting when your baby reaches a new milestone, but when it comes to feeding babies it’s safe to say most parents are a little nervous. If you’re planning on making your own homemade baby food, here are a few simple tips.

First of all, relax… making baby food is simple. You don’t need many ingredients, special equipment (except a blender or food processor) or much time.

Apart from saving you money, making your own baby food provides fantastic nutrition for your little one and gives you peace of mind. After all you know exactly what’s gone into your baby’s food, how it was prepared and the quality of ingredients used.

Most pediatricians advice babies should be be between 4 and 6 months before starting solids. Rice cereal is usually the first food of choice as it doesn’t contain wheat (which can be harder for babies to digest) and most babies can easily tolerate it.
If you’re not sure if your baby is ready for solids always ask your pediatrician first.

It’s always best to introduce one new food at a time just in case your baby has an allergic reaction to a certain food. This will make it easier to pinpoint which foods caused it.

Here’s an easy step-by-step guide to making baby food.

Hygiene:

There’s no need to sterilize feeding equipment as you would baby bottles and teats, but you should wash everything you’ll be using in hot soapy water before starting. It’s also smart to wipe down the counter top and work area before starting.

As with regular cooking, it’s important to use a separate chopping board for meat to avoid cross contamination. And do not let raw food come into contact with cooked food.

Always thaw frozen baby food in the refrigerator. Thawing the food at room temperature may breed bacteria which can cause illness.

Equipment:

A food processor, blender or hand-held blender is ideal for a very smooth consistency. Once your baby is used to solids you can simply mash the food with a fork.

Preferably your baby should sit in a high chair or other upright child safety seat. Baby should be upright at all times to help food digestion and avoid choking.

To feed baby a few simple plastic bowls and spoons without rough edges will do. And don’t forget to get a few packs of baby bibs and have plenty of cleaning cloths handy!

Preparation:

Scrub and peel fruits and vegetables well.

Remove all fat, skin, and bones from fresh meat. Always check to make sure the meat is fresh. If you have any doubts as to the freshness of the meat, it’s best not to use it as it’s just not worth your baby getting sick.

Use only a small amount of water when cooking to avoid loosing valuable nutrients. Many vegetables can be steamed to preserve nutrients.

Never add any seasonings, salt, sugar, or other sweeteners. This will make the food too strong for your baby’s taste buds and can actually make him ill.

Transfer cooked food to a food processor and process until smooth (adding a little of the cooking water if necessary) or use a hand-held blender.

For a thicker consistency, simply mash the food using a fork. You can always add a little breast milk or formula to make it smoother.

* Medical literature advices egg whites, strawberries, honey and peanut products should be avoided until 12 months of age as they have been known to cause allergies in young children.

Storage:

As baby’s only eat a small amount of food, freezing is ideal for baby food. There are several ways you can do this.

One of the easiest ways is to fill up an ice cube tray with any unused baby food (do not save any leftover food from your baby’s bowl or that has been contaminated by your baby’s saliva). Once the food is frozen immediately transfer to individual plastic bags. Depending on how much your baby eats, place a few cubes of baby food in each bag. Don’t forget to label and date it.

Advice varies on how long you should freeze baby food for. Most experts agree frozen baby food should not be kept longer than 3 months. Ideally, try not to keep the food longer than one month as it may loose some of its nutritional content as time passes. Remember your baby doesn’t eat very much at first so make smaller batches.

You can also place small amounts of food in individual plastic containers with lids, and stick labelling tape to the top of the lid.

Reheating:

Easily reheat frozen food by placing it in a heat-proof bowl. Place the bowl in or over a pan of simmering water. Gently reheat while stirring occasionally.

You can also reheat the food in the microwave. This will save you time, but be extra careful as the food will be hotter in some places more than others. Always stir the food and taste it before serving to make sure it’s not too hot. Always, let the food sit for a minute or two before serving to baby. Stir again just before serving.

Always thaw frozen baby food in the refrigerator. Do not thaw baby food at room temperate as it can breed bacteria.

That’s it… a few simple steps to making your own baby food. Homemade baby food will save you money but best of all you’ll be giving your baby the most nutritious foods possible.

For tons of delicious family-friendly recipes, nutrition articles, tips, resources and free recipe newsletter, visit http://www.easy-kid-recipes.com

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

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.

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OK, enough of the serious stuff for a while. Now it’s time for some frivolity in the form of cooking a couple of good chicken recipes. Here’s a two of my favorites. I hope you will like them too.

Remember that in order to keep your chicken bacteria free and to avoid all forms of food contamination please adhere to all the principles frood hygiene essentials stated throughout this blog.

Chicken Fillet Snitzels
This one’s so easy
Ok, Bascially you need to serve about 3-5 pieces per person to really sastisfy the apetite.
So work out how many pieces you need and then flatten the fillets gently between a plastic sheet (I prefer using a rolling pin for this).

Ingredients:
Chicken fillets.
3-4 eggs
1 cup of flour
bread crumbs
salt & pepper
sesame seeds.
Italian Herb mixture (optional).

We have already covered how to prepare the Fillets so I won’t go into that again. Next you will need 3 bowls or plates. In one you put the eggs which you will beat, in another the flour and in the last the bread crumbs, sesame and herbs. Add a little salt and pepper to the flour and to the crumbs.

Take each fillet individually and flour. Ater flouring dip into the egg. Shake off any excess liquid and place into the bread crumbs. Cover the fillet with the crumbs and press lightly. Remove onto a clean and dry tray or plate and repeat the precedure until all the fillets are breaded. If you have a lot of pieces you can divide the layers by using grease proof paper or baking paper.

To avoid the possibility of bacterial growth within the chicken or cross contamination between the eggs and the chicken keep the preparation time as short as possible. Twenty minutes should be ample time for this process and it will help to prevent the the devision of bacteria. Wile you are breading the shnitzels start to heat your oil. The time interval between finishing breading and frying should also be as brief as possible. It you can, serve straight from the frier, if not keep at a temperature of at least 65 degrees celsius until served. Any leftovers should be cooled and refrigerated to avoid bacterial contamination.

Now take a frying pan and add about 1/2cm. of cooking oil. Heat and fry the snitzels on both sides until golden brown. Serve with fries , rice or pasta. Add a little lemon and your favorite dip to the side of the plate. Don’t forget to eat plenty of fresh vegetable salad at least once a day.

Chicket Fillet Fajitas in fried Tortillas
My Personal Recipe
This recipe make a great main course, Brunch or between meal hunger stopper.

For this you will need about 5 fillets per portion.

Other Ingredients:
1 medium tomato (sliced) per 2 portions
1/2 green pepper per 2 portions(sliced)
1/2 medium sized onion per 2 portions(sliced)
Tomato puree
1-2 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
Cumin
Chopped corriander
Corn starch
Cooking oil
Chilli Pepper or sweet chilli pepper sauce.
Tortillas

Equipment:
2 frying pans.

Before you start to fry rub the bottom of the pan with the garlic cloves. Slice the chicken fillets length ways and fry on a deep skillet. Add the onions and work in stir frying carefully for about 1 minute. Add peppers stir frying for about 1 minute also. Now add the tomatoes mixing gently until they begin to show signs of softening. Add salt & black pepper to taste. Put in about 1/2 teaspoon of cumin per 2 portions (reducing by 1/4 teaspoon for each 2 extra portions added). Add the chilli pepper or sweet chilli sauce. Add a little tomato puree to intensify the colour.

Now blend in the chopped corriander adding an ammount according to your own taste preference. Add a little sugar if the mixture needs it. Because you are going to fill the tortillas with the fajitas mixture it needs to be a little firm so mix a teaspoon of corn starch diluted in a little water into the fajitas to make the sauce a little less runny. Put the tortillas onto a table and fill them lenghwise with your fajitas mix. Roll them up gently making sure not to split them. Add a little beaten egg onto the lip of the tortilla and set aside. Now heat another frying pan with about 11/2 cm. of coking oil. Heat to a temperature of the oil 150 degrees centigrade Now add your tortillas to the oil carefully taking care not to get burned or to spill the content of the tortillas out. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove and place on kitchen paper to soak up the excess oil. Serve on lutuce with salza mexican rice or fries. Buon Apetite

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.

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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.

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