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Massive public concern hits the streets of Mexico, the USA and other Central American countries as over one million reported cases of Swine flu are reported in Mexico with over twenty reported deaths. Swine flu has been know to infect humans in the past, particularly pig handlers but it has never been considered a major threat until now. The virus has now been identified as having crossed the species barrier.

Apparently the virus has been able to form mutations within its capsular wall by including proteins associated with human and avian flu strains. This new mutation makes it challenging for the human bodies immune system to recognize the pathogen and neutralize it.

Although this new virus strain does cause concern, the statistics of exactly how destructive this virus is need to be properly analyzed. Questions which are being asked include, does twenty deaths out of one million people infected with the virus give cause for serious concern? How do these numbers compare with other more common human forms of the flu virus epidemics? Are there any variants from the norm regarding risk groups? Can this new virus strain also be carried by avian vectors?

With H5 N1 bird virus we learned that young healthy people were primarily at risk precisely because of their strong immune reaction. How does this new mutation compare with avian flu ? It is clear that the public need more information about the way that this new virus acts.

It is thought that the virus can be transmitted by a number of vectors including direct contact with pigs, direct contact with infected humans, (the ingestion of infected pork products is stated as not posing a risk because this virus is specific to the respiratory tract), direct or indirect contact with the feces of infected pigs or humans, aerosol spray from the respiratory passages of infected human vectors or contact with surfaces upon which the aerosol of infected humans landed. Water could also serve as a vector if it was contaminated with viral infected feces or respiratory aerosol from infected animals.

On the basis of experience gained from the avian flu and SARS outbreaks authorities are swinging into action to contain the epidemic to avoid the risk of another pandemic and to minimize the risk to citizens of both nations. Citizens in higher than normal risk areas are advised to remain calm but to minimize possible exposure sources where possible by using common sense and to report and to seek medical advice for all flu like symptoms experienced by themselves their family or friends. Washing of hands and avoiding contact with persons showing infection with flu symptoms is advised.

Health experts have been quoted after stating that with the end of the flu season drawing close, it is hoped that this epidemic will come to a swift end.

animal-1238375_1920Rodents can be a nightmare for all food businesses. It seems like they appear out of nowhere and disappear into thin air at random. Or do they? Environmental hygienists tell us that in the western world we are never more than ten feet away from a rat, on average. This is quite startling news because this means that rat concentrations may be higher than ever before in history. With the reported upsurge in the levels of reported food poisoning, particularly with reference to salmonella, e. coli and lysteria, the presence of rodents must be controlled professionally within food preparation areas.

In the days when sewers ran open in the middle of the streets of all towns to see rats scurrying around everywhere was no great thing. Nowadays, many of us get very fearful when we see a rat or mouse. It may be common to see rats around farm houses in the countryside but in urban domestic environments if a rat is seen indoors emergency calls will be made to the exterminator.

Rats are not fun to have around the house. They leave the smell of their urine in places they hide and the smell is very hard to get rid of. My house was once targeted by a rat when it was being renovated and we had a real job getting rid of the thing. It decided to set up shop in a washing machine of all places. The smell coming from the washing machine was so bad that I decided to buy a new one and have the old one taken away by the trash collectors.

Like any animal species rodents need an environment upon which they can thrive. They need warmth, food, water and a place to live. Rodents are social animals and do not like to live solitary lives. This means that any environment they decide to live in must be able to support several individuals.

It is our common belief that rodents will come because a slice of bread was left out or because there were a few crumbs that spilled on the floor. This notion is not quite true. Rodents need more than just a solitary piece of food.

Food businesses can be ideal places for rodents to thrive because they can find environments suitable to support whole colonies around food outlets. By using the term environment I relate to the following. Your premises, the neighbouring premises, the drainage system, your roof, the garbage collection area, your store rooms, other store rooms in your immediate area such as bakeries, butchers, vegetable stores, the condition of housing around your business and many other possible factors. All of these elements go towards creating an environment in which rodents can thrive.

There is one thing you must know about rodents. Anywhere they can squeeze their head through they can get their whole body through in a matter of a couple of seconds. Rats will swim through a drain water to trap to squeeze through the grate of a drain. They have no problem doing this.

Highly populated areas are good environments in which to open all sorts of food businesses but they are also perfect environments for rodents. As humans we have developed the ability to control environments and the critical point about pest control in food businesses is the control of the environment around your business.

This is no short order. As I have already suggested there are many factors which contribute to the environment in which your business is situated, from the perspective of a rat or mouse. Firstly there is the question of resident rodent infestation. Is your business situated upon an existing rodent problem? It is a lot harder to get rid of rodents that have inhabited your surroundings for decades than it is to prevent the infestation of rats and mice. This is due to the fact they have the advantage of knowing the terrain like the back of their little fury hands whereas you may be new to the lay of the land.

Infrastructure includes the following areas, drains and sewers, outside walls and piping, rendering, wall cavities, areas under roofs, ovens (especially ovens with insulation), cellars, dry store rooms, trash can areas, box collection areas, vegetation around your areas including trees, neighboring businesses of all types, boxes with stored equipment especially if it is not often used, linen areas, service cupboards and toilet areas.

The places that rodents can inhabit are countless. The key to controlling the presence of rodents in your business is as I have already said to control THEIR potential environment. You must think from the rodents perspective. You must control everything that goes on both in and around your business. Another good indicator to the presence of rats is the presence of cats. Cat are another pest that will inhabit environments which can support them. More often than not they share these environments quite happily with rats. Alley cats are not good ratters because they don’t need them for food. Why should they fight a rat if they have scraps to fed off?

Controlling the environment in which your business is situated is all about a working system and having the staff to do it. Chefs and waiters must not deal in pest control. They must never contaminate themselves by cleaning contaminated areas. All responsible businesses must hire general staff to make sure the area inside and outside the area is kept spotless at all times. Chefs waiters and sore workers must also insure that areas under their direct responsibility and hygiene level are kept hygienic and tidy at all times. Any restaurant team that finishes their shift just ten minutes before going home cannot clean the business properly. At least one hour of solid cleaning is required, twice daily at least, to keep a food preparation business environments clean and controlled from a vermin aspect.

Also, pest control contractors must make fortnightly visits to appraise the vermin presence in and around your business. Likewise drain pumps must be carried out at least once a month by an authorized contracting or municipal authority.

Only when you pay attention to every detail concerning the hygienic state in around your business can you be reasonably assured that you are protecting your customers against disease which is transmitted by rodents and other pests.

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Last week I received a phone call from the head office of a catering company that operates a number of large kitchens up and down the country. The voice at the other end of the line asked me to conduct an independent kitchen hygiene survey in one of their kitchens. I was asked to do a check which included inspecting the condition of the kitchen before and at the time of the arrival of the staff for work. The purpose of this check was to check the level of food hygiene awareness of the staff and the application of food hygiene training in practice, to see if the chef had conducted an adequate inspection of the kitchen before releasing the staff at the end of the shift and to look into the level of pest interaction with the kitchen overnight.

I have done this kind of check before. My job was to walk around the kitchen, dining room and storage areas of the kitchen and to submit a written report within two hours of finishing the inspection to the head office. If my finding were below a certain standard a Representative from head office would visit the kitchen in the early afternoon and hold an emergency meeting with the kitchen manager and the chef. The kitchen manager had been told of my scheduled visit at eleven o’clock on the evening before the visit.

I have to stress this is a kitchen which has had no serious cases of food poisoning in it’s entire history. Considering the findings of the report this may seem surprising to you. As I have stated before, most of us never really know that we are walking along a food contamination knife edge. I cannot allow you to see my written report due to client confidentiality but I can let you read my verbal notes which I recorded on my pocket recorder at the time of the inspection.

I arrived at the rear delivery ramp of the kitchen at five thirty in the morning. One half hour before the kitchen staff were due to arrive. The managers and two dining room workers were already on site.

The points will be numbered:
Kitchen Ramp:

1) Three pallets left unattended on the ramp.
2) Crows pecking sweet corn kernels on the fresh veg pallet.
3) Middle pallet containing fresh chicken legs, blood dripping onto ramp, flies starting to land on the boxes.
4) Vegetable fridge door left open.
5) Dry produce store room door left open.
6) Sparrows flying in and out of dry store room.
7) Cleaning chemicals left on ramp from day before.
8) Dirty service trolleys left on ramp from day before.
9) Water hose pipe left uncoiled from day before.
10) Empty produce boxes left on ramp from day before.

Kitchen:

11) Work surfaces dirty with water stains from day before, underside of tables dirty, table legs dirty. Dried raw chicken pieces found stuck on two table legs.
12) Shelves above work tables cluttered with disposable coffee cups. Cigarette buts inside coffee cups. Dirty plates, bowls and cutlery left on shelves. Dead flies on shelves. Shelves show no evidence of being cleaned.
13) Cobwebs in corners of ceilings.
14) Unclean linings in bread baskets.
15) Dirty cooking trays left in water overnight.
16) Dining room manager spraying degreaser onto barbecue grill vent in close proximity to food being set out for breakfast.
17) Egg trays on work surfaces in dining room and kitchen.
18) Unwashed parsley, dill and coriander put onto work table surface by kitchen worker.
19) Boxes of unwashed vegetables put onto work tables by kitchen staff.
20) Box of unwashed red peppers placed on top of chopping board.
21) Combi steamers greasy and with fallen food on oven floor.
22) Electronic thermoporters unclean. Water trays not emptied. Dirty water and thick layer of lime in water trays apparently not changed for several days.
23) Bad smell coming from inside dish washing machine. Filters not cleaned at the end of the night shift.
24) Fryer lids sticky and greasy.
25) Cockroaches coming out of fryer side panels after being turned on.
26) Small particles of food and stains evident on ceramic wall tiling behind cooking pots and fryers.
27) Stagnant water in cleaned plastic tubs. Tubs not inverted after washing.
28) Bread cutting machine left untidy with thick layer of crumbs let on the machine and floor after use.
29) Meat slicing machine not cleaned with soapAfter use. Fatty lawyer evident after previous day’s use.
30) Plastic tubs containing thawed raw meat left uncovered in fridge.
31) Condensed water dripping onto food trolleys from fridge ceiling.
32) Food trolleys in fridge not covered.
33) Fridge temperature gauge not working.
34) Evidence of mildew, liquid egg, and various sauces on fridge shelving.
35) Fridge floors wet and muddy.
36) Service trolleys not properly cleaned at the end of the day and not being cleaned between tasks.
37) Head Chef wearing very dirty trousers.
38) Staff smoking and drinking coffee in the kitchen.
39) Staff rest area not cleaned the day before, coffee cups and dirty eating plates and cutlery left on tables. Floor filthy. Cat present in staff eating and rest area.
40) Staff not wearing head covering and failing to wash hands before entering the kitchen area.
41) Disposable surgical gloves left on work surfaces after use.
42) No Liners in trash cans.
43) Boxes of frozen vegetables left on kitchen floor by store staff.
44) Rats seen in empty box collection cage.
45) Cats seen in most areas around kitchen and dining room.
46) Birds seen in Kitchen store and in dining room.
48) Blocked sink in vegetable cleaning area. No sign of technical staff for twenty minutes.
49) Meat left to thaw outside of fridge.

These were my findings within the period of forty five minutes of arriving in the catering kitchen. As you can well imagine my grading was not very favorable on that particular day. I know that the head chef and kitchen manager were place on probation in view of these findings. A repeat survey is to take place within a period of one month.

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How many times have your workers phoned in to you and said “boss, I got a virus. I can’t get off the toilet”? During the summer months especially it seems as though somebody is taken ill by a virus every week.

I usually asked them to bring me a doctors note and let it at that. Force major, what can you do? It seemed like I was the only one who never got sick. Could it be that responsibility is the best prophylactic medicine around? I always added “come straight in as soon as you feel well. Even though I knew that this was not the best thing to do. Soon you’ll understand why even if this statement confuses you right now.

The doctor usually always tells you the same thing. “yes you’ve caught that virus that’s been going around. Take something to reduce the fever, stay in bed for three days and drink plenty of water”. We all know that a virus is a variety micro organism that has the ability to infect us with several types of very unpleasant types of illness. The most common of these are upper respiratory tract infections and stomach infections. Other viruses which are less common in the western world due to attention to public hygiene issues include pneumonia, viral meningitis, viral pneumonia, hepatitis A, B and C, polio, several forms of zoonotic encephalitis, yellow fever, dengue fever, western Nile fever, rift valley fever, ebola disease, colorado tick fever, machupo, junin, rabies, small pox, various forms of cancer causing viruses and HIV to name but a few. All of these are very serious life threatening illnesses. Some viruses produce conditions which are considered mildly uncomfortable such as mouth ulcers, foot and mouth disease, cow pox and common warts, to mention just a few. There is a whole other range of diseases that are termed as childhood diseases which are also of viral origin. These viral conditions include measels, german measels chicken pox, mumps, and whooping cough. Some of these are included in inoculations against the contraction of dangerous disease during childhood and some are left to the course of nature. Viruses also impact animals and plant species with often serious financial impact. Dog parvo virus is the most resilient of all viruses.

Scientists were divided in their opinion on whether it was correct to classify viruses as living organisms because they have no metabolic function as such. Viruses in simplistic terms are made up of a proteinous outer shell, proteinous genome material, enzymes and sometimes lipopolysaccharide (fatty) outer structures . All viruses are host specific but are not only host specific but are parasitical only to specific organs of the host. Rabies virus travels only along the tissue of the nervous system and will not attack the cells lining the intestine or the blood tissues. The virus that causes the common cold will not cause hepatitis and so on.

The following clip explains the path of avian flue infection. Remember that although viruses all have slightly different ways of getting into and out of living host cells the bottom line is that they all have the same objective and basically do the same thing.

All viruses enter the body via a vector. That vector could be organic material contaminated with feces, it could be via infected water or it could be introduced into a recipient body by body fluids such as saliva or sperm or it can be transferred via mosquitos or ticks. A virus is a really just a mechanism for replicating itself and it does this in the following manner. All viral invaders must breach the cell wall of the host cell and empty the contents of the viral body into the host cell. After doing this the virus activates its genetic material, each in it’s own way, to insert DNA or RNA into the DNA or RNA of the recipient which it then uses as a template to manufacture duplicate strings of DNA. The strings of DNA are then used to transcribe a code for the production of proteins which will be used to manufacture duplicate viruses within the recipient cell.

The recipient cell will cease to function as a useful cell of the body which may or may not stimulate an immunological response by the organism. When the cell wall has swollen to proportions it can no longer tolerate it will burst and the newly manufactured viruses within will flood into the organism and infect more cells. The condition in which the body is swamped with these newly released viruses is known as viremia. During the period in which the virus is initially infecting the body there is usually no immunological response. This is due to the fact that all the process is being carried out within the cell and the immune response of the body is slow to pick up on this in the initial stages because viruses can go undetected by immune cells if they have undergone some form of mutation which makes them apperar differnt to the imunological memory cells.

When the body starts to be flooded with newly developed viruses the immune response will be triggered and the host and symptoms will appear. The period of time between infection and the manifestation of symptoms can be anything between several hours in some cases to several years in the case of some retro viruses such as the HIV virus. Some viruses will insert their DNA into the DNA structure of the host and encode it to remain dormant. All of us have a certain percentage of dormant viral DNA mixed in with our own DNA. This is termed as Junk DNA. Only under very special conditions will this DNA be activate to begin the manufacture of replica viruses.

Viruses that infect the small intestine typically target the epithelial cells which coat the villi. When this happens the affected areas of the intestine will cease to absorb nutrients from the food. The food will remain in liquid form to which the liquid content of the cells is added on rupturing. In addition more liquid from the non specific immune system is added and the food is evacuated as what we recognize as diarrhea. Viral intestinal disorders can be accompanied with vomiting, nausea, headache and increased temperature. All of these symptoms are part of the bodies strategy to clear itself of the viral invader.

The swelling of the cell wall and its bursting under the pressure of the newly developed virus within is known as Lysis. Lysis is the destruction of the cell due to internal causes. During this process ulcerated and painful lesions may be formed in infected tissue. When these burst the viruses are released into the blood stream causing viremia. This destruction of cellular tissue can be accompanies by the presence of blood in stools. Loss of blood in stools is a case for medical supervision because the amount of blood lost may well have to be replaced by blood transfusion.

Viral infections of the intestine can last anything from a day to several weeks and vary in intensity. A long lasting infection may be severe of mild. It all depends on the virus in question and if the bodies defenses have any memory of this virus or viruses with similar protein structures on the outer wall. Some short lived infections can be extremely unpleasant and in contrast they can be very mild. There are no set rules. Viruses change the structure of their cell walls through mutations. This is part of the evolutionary success of viruses. The sheer numbers by which they replicate themselves leaves every statistical possibility for viral mutations to occur.

This video of the production of the HIV Retro Virus is a good animation of how viruses use host cells to transcribe the proteins that they need to reproduce themselves. In oter types of virus the process is simpler but basically the same.

The only sure way to protect yourself against entero viruses is to maintain a good personal hygiene regime in the home and at work and to buy food from a safe reliable source and to make sure that you have a safe water supply..

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E. Coli or escherichia coli are gram negative, rod shaped, motile or non motile, non spore producing facultative anaerobic bacteria which live in the lower intestine of all warm blooded animals. E. Coli species that are capable of propulsion do so by means of a ‘flagella’ which is a whip like tail.

Most types of e. coli are absolutely harmless and are part of the normal and necessary flora of warm blooded species. In fact they are very necessary because they produce vitamin K as a bi product of their metabolic activity and by existing in great numbers help by preventing other pathogenic bacteria from colonizing the gut.

Some species of e.coli are pathogenic which means that they can cause desease. The strains that are pathogenic are 0157:H7 and 0111:B4. This particularly virulent capacity was transferred to these e.coli bacteria from shigella bacteria which passed shiga toxin to e.coli by means of bacteriofages which are a type of viral species. Both these strains of e.coli have the capability of transferring their virulent qualities to other bacteria around them by means of their sex pilus which is a needle like protrusion from the side of their body wall by which they insert the DNA codes necessary for the production of virulent qualities into bacteria next to them. One such virulent quality is the ability to resist certain anti biotics.

The very virulent strains of coli such as 0157:H7 and 0111:B4 are capable of causing serious intestinal illness particularly in the very young, old and the immunologically compromised. However it must be stressed that the majority of common e.coli outbreaks are mild and cause only diarrhea and mild temperature increase. More serious virulent cases can cause complications such as hemolytic-uremic syndrome.

E. coli toxins can be heat tolerant or heat labile. This quality makes the boiling of water to kill e. coli unsure and in such a case water should be boiled in a pressure cooker, if available, for at least twenty minutes. Another alternative would be to only drink safe bottled water if possible. E. coli bacteria which escape from the intestine into the abdominal cavity through means of a perforated ulcer, intestinal lesion or a ruptured appendix will cause peritonitis and be life threatening if not treated promptly with antibiotics such as streptomycin and gentamycin to which e.coli are very sensitive. E. Coli which are associated with the intestinal mucosa lawyer can be found in greater numbers in conditions such as Crohns disease, iritable bowel disorder and ulcerative colitis.

E.coli is contracted through contact with contaminated food or water sources in which the content of the gut as come into direct or ‘indirect’ contact with food or water. Severe cases of e. Coli infection can resemble cholera.

New strains of E.coli are continually being produced by the process of mutation. Some strains may develop traits that are harmful to the host animal. E.coli prefers to reproduce at the temperature of 37 degrees Celsius but some strains have shown the capacity to reproduce at temperatures of up to 49 degrees Celsius.

E. coli has been found in agricultural produce such as spinach. In 2006 there was a famous outbreak of contaminated spinachin the US due to the fact that bovine feces polluted a spinach field which was at the bottom of the hill on which a herd of cattle were kept. In this case all the spinach was recalled and destroyed.

E. coli contamination can be prevented for the most part by maintaining a correct food hygiene policy in the kitchen and by using reputable food suppliers.

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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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Below you will find the link for an article which to my mind is of tremendous importance in the food hygiene world. Recent pioneering research has shown bacterial defence mechanisms at the disposal of the bacterium Salmonella Enterica which consufe the body’s defence mechanisms and causes them to recognize the bacterium as part of the “self”. These mechanisms have eluded scientists until now.

This gripping article raises many new questions. Is this a quality that the bacterium always had but remained undiscovered? Is it a new defence strategy that the bacterium has produced? Will there be new implications to the capability of this bacerium and is this the first of a new string of virulent bacterial qualities with which scientists will have to contend? Read the article by following the link below:

Article on Salmonella Enterica from Yale University

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One of the great pastimes of all time has to be the camping holiday. So many of us work at the same old job day in and day out going through the same old routines time and time again. We long for the day when we can hang up that apron, pack everything we need into a back pack and head out onto the open road. At least some of us do.

Camping holidays vary greatly. To some camping may be sleeping rough next to the camp fire with only the stars for a roof. To others camping may be a luxury safari in Kenya where everything is meticulously planned right down to the champagne on ice and after eight mint on the pillow. Whatever our dream camping holiday may be, we should remember that we are no longer in our natural environment. We can no longer say that we are entirely suited to living out in the open. The days when our distant ancestors were hunter gatherers are long gone and the level of natural immunity that they possessed we can only wish for.

When we are in an outdoor environment for an extended period of time we need to keep in mind that we take care of all of our needs in the same environment whereas in our homes we have created separate environments to cater for our various needs. When we are in the outdoor environment we actually have very limited control over it. The quality of water in a natural environment is what it is. We can do nothing to change it nor can we do much to deter insect vectors such as flies, ants, ticks and leeches, for example.

The only way we can control the effect that the environment has on us is to control the way we organize ourselves within it. The most important logistical problem that we face from a food hygiene aspect is the problem of water. We must have a safe source of water. The second most important problem that we face is having safe food to eat and the third most important problem that we have to contend with is how to take care of our personal hygiene needs without contaminating the area in which we have to live. Ideally these should be three separate areas. This will reduce the risks of cross contamination.

On a camping trip we may have only one source of water which we have to use for purposes of hygiene, cooking and drinking. This presents a challenge which needs to be addressed. Indeed, a great many cases of serious food and water poisoning originate on camping trips. I can vouch for this personally.

The four golden rule of food hygiene apply as much outdoors as they do indoors. Lets take a look at the four rules and see how to apply them successfully in the camp site scenario.

Rule 1. Buy food from a safe source.
In the camp site this means take food that will not perish. Sterilized packs of food can be bought in specialist outdoors shops which are identical to those used by special forces. Failing that take dried foods and foods that have been packed in small tin cans, tubes, concentrates etc. Avoid taking fresh meats and fish at all costs. Even cooked meat will have a very limited life and can only be taken into account as a packed lunch for the first day to be eaten within four hours of setting off. Fruit such as apples can be taken for several days provided they are washed properly, dried and wrapped in a plastic bag in individual portions. Eggs should be avoided also unless you can get them fresh on your trip. Boil them for no less than 10 minutes. Likewise some hard vegetables such as carrots can be taken for the first couple of days. Again it is best to peel them, wash them thoroughly, dry them and wrap them hermetically in a plastic bag. Do not eat local food on trips unless you are absolutely sure that the source is safe. If you are unsure about a water source it is better to drink fresh milk than drink the water. If you catch dysentery you may well loose more water than you can intake.

Rule 2.Prevent bacteria from entering your food.
Again, by having your food closed in hermetically sealed wrapping the possibility of contamination is greatly reduced. Do not open more than you need for each meal. Do not mix food which has been opened with closed food. Do not leave food for long periods unattended. Either eat it or cook it. Preferably cook it. When handling foods make sure that you are clean, particularly hands and nails. Do not use knives that have been used for any other purpose other than for food. Clean them thoroughly before use as well as after use. Likewise, clean your bowls, plates, cups, knives and forks before eating and drinking as well as directly after the meal. Once clean I recommend putting them into a clean plastic bag to avoid contamination while on the trail. Use only clean water for cooking. If you are unsure of the water source and you have no other use a camp carbon filtration system or use chlorine water purification tablets. The water won’t taste great but it will make it drinkable provided there are no chemical contaminates in it.

Rule 3. Prevent the multiplication of bacteria in your food.
As you may have no way of keeping your cold food at a correct cold temperature it is always wise to eat all your food hot. Don’t leave food laying around. If your food source is all but sterile to begin with you won’t have many worries about the multiplication of bacteria in your food. The secret is to open it and eat it or heat it up and eat it as soon as possible. By that I mean within twenty minutes of being cooked. With a bit of correct organization and compromise on five star cuisine one can all but eliminate this stage.

Rule 4. Destroy bacteria on utensils and work surfaces.
Once again prior organization is the order of the day. Always take some washing up liquid and Lysol or dettol hygiene spray or wipes. Wash all work surfaces thoroughly with soap and rinse with water followed by spraying it with Lysol spray or wiping with an anti bacterial wipe. Do this before and after use. As previously stated wash all eating utensils before and after use. After use spray or wipe with an anti bacterial product and wrap in a clean plastic bag. Seal it as hermetically as possible. Discard the plastic bag after opening it for the next use. Old wrapping should be collected in a trash bag and taken home with you.

Keep your dirty clothing as far away as possible from your eating utensils and food. Make a field toilet at least fifty paces away from your camp site. Even if this is a hole in the ground make sure that you cover your excretions with some of the soil or sand that you have dug from the hole. If you have it pour a little chemical sanitizer onto the soil to deter flies. Avoid camping where others have defecated in the open. Scour the area before choosing the location. Do not wash and brush your teeth in the same area that you go to the toilet or eat. Choose a place suitable for this. If you cant wash as well as you would like use hygienic wipes. Particularly use them after washing your hands after visiting the toilet.

Many people like to entertain the notion that one is allowed to be a bit more lax on a camping holiday. This is the pitfall that causes so many people to fall terribly ill when camping. Nothing could be further from the truth. A healthy and successful camping trip requires quite a high level of forethought, prior organization and planning and an appropriate level of self discipline without ruining the holiday by being overly fanatical and obsessive. This is not what I am advocating. If performed systematically all of my suggestions should take no more than a few minutes of your time around mealtimes and safeguard you against several unpleasant days in hospital and a lifetime’s bad memory.

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Most of us in the western world think of dysentery or “Shigella” as a disease of the summer months. Have you ever thought why? Firstly, is it true? Is dysentery a disease of the summer months?

Ok, now I’m going to confuse you a little more because the answer is yes and no. No because dysentery is not only a disease of the summer months and yes because it is mostly proliferated throughout the western world during the summer months, but why?

Dysentery is a disease that is spread via contaminated food and water. A lot of our summer produce is picked in warmer regions of the world where the water sourses osed to irrigate and to wash produce before packing may not be of the best quality and may contain many contaminants. In addition, workers who pick and pack produce may be carriers of certain types of dysentery causing bacteria.

Another major cause of dysentery during summer months for westerner’s is travelling to warmer climates. Whereas locals in many areas of the world may have developed immunities to many bacterial and protozoic species, all of these may be new for us. By being tempted to eat as the locals do we are often exposing ourselves to sources of food and water contamination.

Dysentery is caused by several major causes lets have a look at a couple of them.

Bacterial Dysentery. Bacterial dysentery is caused primarily by the bacterium Shigella dysenteriae. The disease it causes is called shigellosis. This bacterium is a gram negative, non motile, rod shaped, non spore forming facultative anaerobic species that produces a toxin called shiga toxin which is what causes the reaction which we know as dysentery.

Allow me to translate that mouthful of scientific jargon for you. Firstly Gram testing is a form of bacterial staining devised by a man called Mr. Gram which adheres to proteinous outer shells but not to fatty shells. As the vast majority of gram negative bacteria have a Lipopolysaccharide outer shell the dye will not stick, therefore the bacteria are classified as gram negative. Non motile means that they have no mechanism by which they can propel themselves within the medium they are in. Non spore forming means that the bacterium does not have the capability of reducing it’s structural size to permit it to survive periods when conditions are not suitable for bacterial growth, hibernating in short. Facultative anaerobic means that it can live in an oxygen rich environment or in one which is void of oxygen. It is usually when in the anaerobic phase that facultative bacteria will produce their toxins.

The symptoms of dysentery are high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, severe dehydration. Shega toxin is a potentially deadly toxin. Patients with dysentery may experience projectile diarrhoea and projectile vomiting simmultaneously. This is a very unpleasant condition which I have experienced personally. With this disease fluid intake is vital even if that means via infusion and a strict hygiene regeme is vital to rule out the possibility of re infection. Recovery usually takes anything between one to two weeks but in many areas of the world high mortality is common due to improper conditions with which to treat this condition. Mortality rate is particularly high in children and the elderly.

Amoebic Dysentery. This form of dysentery is also spread by the ingestion of contaminated food and water. It is caused by a cyst forming amoebic species. The disease is called intestinal amoebiasis.

This disease is most common in the developing world but not only. One case was reported in St. Petersburg which is quite close to the artic circle. Both bacterial and Ameobic Dysentery are prevelant in developing countries and often get confused. Most cases of travellers dysentary are in fact bacterial or viral in origin. Amoebic dysentery is a parasitical disorder and will not be effected by antibiotics. This form of dysentery may cause infection and enlargening of the liver and blood in stools. Other symptoms remain very much the same as in bacterial dysentery. Metronidazole is the preferred treatment for Amoebic Dysentaty.

Note. Not all species of amoebae are cyst forming.

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Scombroid fish poisoning is a toxic reaction caused by the decaying flesh of fish of the scombroid family. Fish of this family include bonito, tuna, sardines, anchovies, mahi,mahi, mackerel, king butterfly fish and kahawai.

All of these fish have dark flesh. Other types of fish may also be responsible for this reaction as well as the above mentioned. Scombroid fish contain a chemical substance called histadine within the meat. If the flesh of the fish reaches temperatures of above fifteen degrees celsius after being caught bacteria that are present in the skin of the fish convert the histadine in to scrombrotoxin. Market stalls are particularly susceptible to this through improper or no cooling facilities The primary component of scombrotoxin is another substance called histamine which causes the toxic reaction known as scombroid fish poisoning.

All forms of cooking have little or no effect in reducing the levels of histamine within an affected piece of fish even if all the bacteria that caused the histamine to be produced have been destroyed. Scombroid fish poisoning varies to other forms of fish poisoning in that the areas of flesh that were most decomposed will contain the highest levels of histamine and therefore only the people who eat from that particular area of flesh will feel ill. Others eating flesh from different areas of the same fish will feel no ill effect whatsoever.

Scombroid fish poisoning is not infectious and it is not an allergic reaction either. The person who was affected by this form of poisoning will have no ill effect from eating this type of fish or fish of the same family on future occasions provided it is caught fresh and stored in proper refrigerated conditions.

Symptoms
Symptoms will start to be felt in thirty minutes to one hour after eating the poisoned fish. Primary symptoms include warm flushes followed by the development of a profuse bright red rash starting on the neck or lower jaw and spreading to the lower abdominal area including the back. The rash is hot and itchy but unlike rashes in allergic reactions there is no swelling of the skin. Other symptoms may include any number or all of the following: a burning feeling in the mouth, a pounding headache, nausea, raised heart beat, dizziness, collapse caused by the lowering of the blood pressure, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Symptoms may persist for a number of hours after which they will normally subside. In some cases, particularly in children and the elderly symptoms may take longer to disappear.

Prevention of this disorder lies solely in the correct handling of fish. All fish should either be cooked promptly after being caught or refrigerated at a constant temperature at four degrees Celsius until used. Removal of the skin also helps to prevent formation of the toxin by reducing the number of bacteria around the flesh of the fish.

Treatment of this condition is usually quite simple. Oral anti histamine is usually enough to eleviate the symptoms. Expert medical advise should be saught and the patient should receive a full medical exam in an emergency unit to eliminate any complications.

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