Understanding Moulds

Many 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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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At the bottom of this article you will find a full video presentation in six parts on the subject of food hygiene.

Most of us spend a great deal of attention to cases of food poisoning outside the home. Stories of food poisoning incidents hit the news and cause a great deal of anxiety and public interest. Someone once told me that food scares in the media are a bit like stories of air crashes. Although tragic and dramatic they do not amount to many deaths compared to road accidents. The same is true for incidences of food poisoning. Most instances of food poisoning do occur in the home environment.

However it is only natural to have this  concern about food hygiene from without the home because the food we buy and bring into the home environment comes from without. It is for precisely this reason that we are naturally tuned into collecting as much information as possible about where the best sources of food are and which places to avoid.

Even if we do manage to locate excellent food sources there will always be some bacteria present on it. We can never get completely away from this fact. Bacteria are everywhere. What we are looking for is sources that have not been exposed to unnecessary sources of contamination. Taking this fact into to account, the reason for promptly storing our food becomes clear. We need to keep it as fresh as possible.

Restaurants are involved solely in the preparation of food and if they work along strict hygienic guidelines the risk of food contamination is minimal. On the other hand, the home kitchen serves many functions. If only I had a dollar for the number of times I saw muddy football boots in the kitchen sink. The multi functionality of the home kitchen allows for many different possibilities for the cross contamination of food.

The kitchen is the place where any number of family mishaps are solved and family members come to the kitchen to clean themselves when really they should be using the bathroom. Kids may have been playing with their pet rabbits or the dog and the man of the house may have been unblocking a drain. In both of these instances the family members in question may go to take a drink from the fridge without properly washing and changing clothes. We all know this happens. Any kind of contaminant could spill onto food,

Another reason for food poisoning in the home is the direct and indirect interaction between the kitchen area and animal.s By animals I mean cats, dogs, mice, rats, birds, cockroaches, ants, flies, spiders, moths and in some countries maybe lizards and geckos. All animal species carry a huge variety of bacteria on their skin and in the feces and urine. Animals should not be allowed to jump onto kitchen work surfaces or eat from human utensils. If you are working with food avoid touching animals. Food should be kept in air tight food containers to stop insects and rodents from getting at it and work surfaces must be kept spotlessly clean at all times and sterilized with an anti bacterial spray such as Lysol spray.

Not everybody cleans their fruit and vegetables before storing them but I do like to wash it with a fruit and vegetable detergent. The soil upon your produce may come from many different areas of the world and it is better to clean it off than to have exotic strains of bacteria infecting your whole fridge. The special detergents for fruit and vegetables should also remove any insecticide residue from your fruit.

A major source of food poisoning in the home is failure to clean the fridge regularly and to check the freshness of the produce within it. Your fridge is a humid environment in which air circulates. This means that bacteria and molds can spread throughout your fridge in aerosol and contaminate many different items in a very short space of time. Always check your stock for food spoilage.

Preparing barbecue food is another common source of food poisoning in the home. People often leave food in containers in hot conditions while they are cooking. This gives bacteria an opportunity to grow. Grilling raw chicken takes a very long time until it is cooked through to the bone and bacteria have ample time to proliferate throughout the food. It is always best to precook chicken drumsticks, wings and chunks and to grill them just for the added taste of the grill. Thick hot dogs and burgers are also problematic for grilling on the barbecue. It takes a very long time for the heat to penetrate throughout and more often than not people eat only partially cooked food.

Thawing meat and fish. It is absolutely amazing when one learns just how few people understand how to thaw food. In the age when we constantly want things to be ready in a flash it seems time wasting to wait a few hours for meat to thaw. The solution is generally the microwave or to thaw in hot water. Both of this areas create hot spots on the surface of the meat where bacteria can develop. Meat should be defrosted in cold water but my personal advice is to plan three days ahead and defrost meat in your fridge at four degrees Celsius and in a closed container.

Ground meat and eggs are particularly sensitive items in the home kitchen. Ground meat is animal muscle whose surface area has been greatly increased. This increase of surface area is excellent for bacterial development. if other contaminants such as unclean spices or herbs are added to it as well as raw eggs, bacteria will be provided with the ideal environment. Raw egg is another perfect culture medium for bacteria. Ground meat should not be left out for long periods. It should be mixed with the other ingredients as quickly as possible and either cooked or re refrigerated until cooking. Personally I try not to exceed twenty minutes outside of refrigerated conditions.

Failure to follow manufacturers instructions is also an area in which much food poisoning in the home. Many pre made products are not suitable for baking, especially meat products which have been breaded but not pre fried.  Always read manufacturers instructions if you are using a product for the first time. Adhere to warnings stated on packaging.

The last area of concern that I want to talk about is the cleaning of eating and cooking utensils and equipment. Wash everything in very hot water and washing up liquid. Clean all grease from ovens and ranges promptly. Store equipment in clean cupboards and replace dish cloths and dish towels after each task. Use all kitchen equipment only for the function that it was intended. Personal hygiene is the function of the bathroom not the kitchen. Train your family on how to use the kitchen correctly and the risks of food poisoning in the home will be greatly reduced.

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One job that people really fear doing most in commercial kitchens is cleaning the tough grease off equipment, drains and vents. Why? Because it nearly always involves the use of strong caustic soda based substances.

These substances cause injuries if not handled properly. They can cause blindness if they get into eyes, they can cause breathing problems and they can cause severe chemical burns to the skin. In addition they are a food safety hazard and there is always the risk that they will enter food that is in the work area.

I have used these substances for many years because we really had no other solutions to the cleaning challenges we had to deal with on a daily basis. I used to dread having to use these substances and yet, being the type of person I am I would do most of this work myself because I knew that my staff would cause themselves injury.

However, there is no longer a reason to use such potentially dangerous substances because we have now entered the era of the steam vapour cleaning system. Whereby formally you would spread degreasers onto a surface or scrape a surface for hours on end with a spatula now you can do the same work in a very short space of time using a steam vapour cleaning system.

In commercial kitchens not all work surfaces or cooking trays are stainless steel. It is better if they are but some products use aluminium to make a product less expensive. The advantage with the steam vapour cleaning system is that it cleans any surface, stainless steel, ceramic, aluminium, rubber, plastic, wood or Teflon.

It will clean, grease, grime, mould and lime. What’s more you don’t have to evacuate a twenty meter radius when using it. Once the hard grease and grime is off it becomes easy to maintain clean surfaces because very little time is needed for maintenance. In fact, the only chemical you will regularly need in your kitchen is ordinary washing up detergent. I strongly advise using a steam vapour cleaning system in all types of kitchens. Remember, the cleaner you kitchen is kept, the fewer vermin problems you will have and the easier it becomes to clean your kitchen the cleaner it will be kept.

age-1238316_1920How many of you have been to somebody’s house for tea and been given a moldy piece of sponge cake or Danish pastry?

I must say that it has happened to me, not often, but it has happened. What do you do? Do you remove the mold and leave it on the side of the plate? Feed it to the dog, provided there is one? Cunningly stuff it behind the seat cushions? You’re in a jam and you know it. Those eyes are on you and they want to see your reaction to the cake that you know that you are going to have to force down, mold and all.

You just hope that the mold will not make you sick. You go back home without saying a word and take a couple of stiff shots of whiskey in the hope that the alcohol will kill the microorganisms that you were forced to ingest. Or, if you are particularly bold you might decide to say ” I think I’ll leave that, I think I saw a bit of mold on it”. In which case you will be brought another piece of moldy cake only this time the mold has been scraped off. Either way, you loose.

It always seems that the mold has done you no harm and after ringing the clinic for re assurance you decide to let the whole matter drop. I think most of us have been in that boat, right?

Molds are microscopic organisms which are connected to the fungus family. It has been common belief that molds are part of the plant kingdom but recent research is now questioning that assumption. More and more scientists are now considering molds to be a part of the animal kingdom. Moulds can produce mycotoxins in food.

It is possible, from a food aspect, to divide molds into three main groups. In the first group we have edible molds, in the second group we have moulds which are used for medicinal purposes and in the third group we have poisonous molds. If we were to put each of these categories into three different circles in the form of a triangle and then squash them together so that they merge into each other to an extent if one third we would get a true picture of how molds really act.

Some molds are edible within limits and if those limits are exceeded then the mold becomes toxic. Some molds are edible and yet have medicinal qualities, some are edible, medicinal which also have toxic qualities and some molds are toxic but have some medicinal qualities when used in the right way and in the right dosages.

We all know about the molds that are used in the cheese industry. Molds are used to deter the contamination of cheese by undesirable bacteria as well as for taste reasons. You can eat as much of this moldy cheese as you like and you will not be sick because of it.

I 1990 I remember that we had several cases of a very violent form of liver cancer that claimed the lives of quite a few people. This mold was found to be present in pistachio nuts that originated in Turkey. Most of the people who died from this mold were people who worked in kiosks which sold pistachios. This is one instance of a mold which can infest food which has quite lethal effects when ingested in sufficient quantity.

The rule of thumb concerning mold is that any form of mold that forms naturally on food should not be ingested. Throw the food out.Don’t even try to salvage part of the food. Molds used in cheese and other food sources such as truffles should only be eaten if you are sure the food source is safe. Medicinal molds such as antibiotics are to some extent out of your control but if you know that you have had an adverse reaction to these products in the past then do not take them. Inform your physician about your reaction and he will choose an alternate treatment.

Molds are one of the food hygiene issues which we come across in our daily lives. Some molds which we may inadvertently eat are hidden and by this I mean within various types of fruit and nuts, Apples often have mold in the center where the pips are. An apple should always be cut in half and inspected before eating. Nuts are often moldy also and should not be opened with your teeth. Always open the nut in such a way that allows you to inspect the nut before eating. Do not eat moldy, sunflower, pumpkin seeds or ground nuts. These molds are not good for you.

© 2019 Food Hygiene Essentials