Blog

spice-1383075_1920Many small food manufacturers make fresh delicacies to sell in local markets. Many such products incorporate spices into recipes. In most cases herbs and spices originate in foreign countries with low food safety records and because of this many potentially harmful bacteria or molds can be found in spices, usually in the dormant spore stage. When we add spices to products, particularly products that are raw or immersed in spice mixtures, we provide bacterial spores with the conditions that they need to develop into bacteria by providing them with temperature, water and a food source. I have bought products that look very tempting. Prepared beautifully in decorative jars which have been topped up with extra virgin olive oil, only to find, upon opening the jar that the contents have fermented. This is evident by the release of gas as it literally fizzes into a froth at the top of the open jar.

It is totally evident that the people making these products used non irradiated spices. At least, this is the most common cause. For a few dollars extra any spice can be bought from suppliers that supply irradiated spices. This ensures that all organic contaminants are totally neutralized. The taste of the spice isn’t effected greatly in this process either. It may even have a fresher taste than spices that have not been irradiated. My advice to all food vendors and food preparers is to use irradiated spice and to distance yourselves from the chance of product contamination or fermentation.

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

Add to Technorati Favorites

What is listeriosis?
Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Until several years ago it was thought that this bacteria only infected animals but it is now accepted that humans are also at risk from this disease. While many bacteria are generally seen to infect specific locations within the human body, Listeria may infect many different locations, such as the brain or the spinal cord membranes or the bloodstream.

Classification:
L. monocytogenes is a gram positive, non-spore forming, motile, facultatively anaerobic, rod shaped bacterium. It is catalase positive, oxidase negative, and expresses a Beta hemolysin which causes destruction of red blood cells. This bacterium exhibits characteristic tumbling motility when viewed with light microscopy. [6] Although L. monocytogenes is actively motile by means of peritrichous flagella at room temperature (20-25C), the organism does not synthesize flagella at body temperatures (37C). [7]

Who gets listeriosis?
Anyone can get this disease, but those at highest risk for serious illness from this bacterium are newborns, the elderly, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women. Healthy adults and children occasionally get infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill. Listeria Monocytogenes is classified as an intracellular paracite. This means that it invades and lives within cells of the body thereby managing to evade the body’s immune system. Infection by as few as 1000 individual bacteria is considered enough for the disease to take hold. When listeric meningitis occurs, the overall mortality may reach 70%; from septicemia 50%, from perinatal/neonatal infections greater than 80%. In infections during pregnancy, the mother usually survives.

When do Listeria infections occur?
Infections occur throughout the year. Although most cases occur sporadically, food-borne outbreaks of this disease do frequently occur. Poor food hygiene and poor personal hygiene conditions are responsible for many of the recently recorded outbrakes.

How is listeriosis spread?
Listeria bacteria are widely distributed in nature and can be found both in water and soil. Infected animals may also serve as sources of contamination. Unlike other organisms, Listeria can be spread through several different methods. Ingestion or food-borne transmission of the organism, such as through the ingestion of unpasteurized milk or by the eating of contaminated vegetables, is often a source of many cases. In newborn infections, the organism can be transmitted from mother to fetus in utero, or directly to the fetus at the time of birth through the contact of the fetus’ blood supply with that of the mothers. Direct contact with the organism can cause lesions on the skin.

What are the symptoms of listeriosis?
Because listeriosis can affect many different parts of the body, the symptoms vary. For meningoencephalitis, the onset can be sudden with fever, intense headache, nausea, vomiting and signs of meningeal irritation. In other body locations, various types of lesions at the site of infection are the primary symptom. In most cases, Listeria infection causes fever and influenza-like symptoms resembling a host of other illnesses.

How soon after exposure do symptoms of listeriosis appear?
Listeriosis has an extremely variable incubation period. It can range from 3 to seventy days, but symptoms usually will typically appear within a month of infection.

How is listeriosis diagnosed?
Specific laboratory tests are the only way to effectively identify this disease. Since many cases may be mild, the disease may be much more common than is realized.

Are there any unusual features of listeriosis?
Listeria infections are a significant risk for pregnant women, who may not experience obvious symptoms. Infection of the fetus can occur before delivery and can cause abortion as early as the second month of pregnancy, but more often in the fifth and six months. An infection later in pregnancy may cause exposure during birth, sometimes resulting in infection of the newborn child which may be fatal.

Does past infection with Listeria make a person immune?
Past infection does not appear to produce immunity.

What is the treatment for Listeria infection?
Several antibiotics are effective against this organism. Ampicillin, either on it’s own or in combination with other types of antibiotics, is frequently used.

What can be done to prevent the spread of Listeriosis?
Since the organism is widly distributed throughout nature, basic sanitary measures such as only using pasteurized dairy products, by only eating cooked meats and washing hands thoroughly prior to the preparation of foods offer the best protection against infection by this disease.

In addition, the following recommendations are for persons who are categorized to be at high risk of infection, such as pregnant women, the elderly and persons with compromised immune systems:

Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats, unless they are reheated until they are steaming hot.
Avoid getting the liquid from hot dog packages onto other foods sources, utensils, and food preparation surfaces, and remember to wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats, and deli meats.
Do not eat soft cheese products such as feta, Brie, and Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, or Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco, and Panela, unless they clearly state they are made from pasteurized milk written on the labelling of the product.
Do not eat chilled pâtés or meat spreads. Canned or shelf-stable pâtés and meat spreads can be eaten.
Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is contained in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna or mackerel, is most often labeled as “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky.” The fish is found in the refrigerator section or sold over deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens and supermarkets. Canned or shelf-stable smoked seafood may be eaten.

Add to Technorati Favorites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add to Technorati Favorites

When visiting China or any other country with a Chinese orientated culture it can be very challenging to try some of the exotic culinary preparations on offer. People of Chinese origin eat just about anything that is a source of protein. Local delicacies may include insects, reptiles, amphibians, all types of seafood and shellfish, many types of mamals and just about anything else you can think of.

Food poisoning among adventurous western tourists is quite common simply because of the fact that they have no or little awareness of the things which a local can stomach but would be very problematic for them. The prospect of being able to come home and show family and friends pictures of yourself munching on freshly fried cockroaches may be appealing but it may also turn out to be a mistake you might regret for a very long time.

Locals may have a much higher resistance to various food toxins and allergens that you. Their immune systems may well recognize and destroy bacteria which would make you very sick. Remember, they have been exposed to these things all their lives whereas for you it is completely new.

Many good hotels will keep lists of hotels which they feel that it is safe for tourists to eat and in addition they may also have a residential general practitioner on duty or be able to call a reputable GP within a very short space of time.

A good rule of thumb when eating in Chinese restaurants is only to eat in respectable busy places. Only accept your food it it is sizzling hot and do not order anything which your stomach is not used to. Also, never accept fruit which has been peeled for you, always opt to peel it yourself. Never eat salads. In fact, there are no salads in Chinese cuisine. Is it a coincidence that they all eat their food piping hot? Food for thought!

If you do fall sick in China or South East Asia always go to a doctor who has been recommended to you by a respectable establishment. Street doctors are often not qualified by internationally recognized medical schools and may make bad mistakes in diagnosis. Also some doctors may recommend unnecessary treatment and prescribe drugs that you do not need and which may do you more harm than good. It is also most unadvised to go to traditional practitioners because many of the herbal remedies which they prescribe may be infected with mold and cause more harm than good.

Common sense is an absolute must when eating of receiving medical treatment in China. The Chinese government itself are now organizing themselves to bring in a national standards authority which will act upon identical lines to those practiced in Eu regulations and the American FDA. The Chinese government has fully accepted that to continue to operate as they have until now is contrary to the Chinese national interest and prosperity of the Chinese nation. Please, be careful what you eat in China.

Add to Technorati Favorites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add to Technorati Favorites

Cholera is a disease of the human digestive system and it is passed from person to person through the drinking if infected water or eating food infected with the cholera bacteria. Cholera is caused by the bacterium Vibrio Cholerae which is a comma shaped gram negative bacteria.

Cholera is usually contracted when the feces of an infected person or persons comes into contact with food or a water supply but cholera has been know to exist in non feces infected brackish water. However cholera has also been know to be contracted by eating raw shellfish which can be infected with cholera. Some coastal areas including the Gulf of Mexico, the west African Coast, The east African Coastline, parts of the Brazilian coastline and parts of the South China Sea coastlines are renowned for having cholera infected shellfish. It is suspected that the pumping of raw sewage into the sea is responsible for this phenomenon.

Cholera is very common in areas which have poor treatment of sewage and drinking water. Many cases of cholera infection are very mild but other instances may be very severe. The disease is caused when the bacteria produce cholera toxin which inserts itself into the cell walls of the cells which line the small intestine. It acts as a very efficient chemical water pump which draws vast amounts of water into the lumen of the small intestine.

The bacterial infection which causes cholera is not very dangerous in itself on condition that the symptoms of the disease are well managed. It is the symptoms which present the danger. Persons infected with cholera have been know to be seriously dehydrated within one hour from the onset of diarrhoea, can go into shock within three hours and can die from severe dehydration in the space of twelve hour if they do not receive proper medical attention.

If properly managed the body can wash the disease out in the space of a few days. the main problem with cholera is re infection. If there is no clean water or uncontaminated food to be had the cycle continues. The main impact of cholera is on the elderly, the very young and people who may already be weakened by malnutrition or another disease. The main treatment which is now used to combat this disease is oral re hydration therapy. Re hydration should be started as soon as possible. In very severe cases a drip may be needed in addition to oral re hydration therapy. Medical staff who are used to treating this disease and in using this technique have saved many millions of lives especially in the developing world.

Add to Technorati Favorites

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.

Add to Technorati Favorites

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

barbecue-1305026_1920Add to Technorati Favorites

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.

© 2019 Food Hygiene Essentials