Blog

animal-1239132_1920Add to Technorati FavoritesI would like to tell you about a case of food hygiene violation that I recently heard about. It occurred in England a few years ago. I have decided to write about this case, dispite the fact that it happened some time ago, because it shows very clearly the type of people that food hygiene inspectors have to contend with on an almost daily basis. This is a case of blatant disregard for authority and the safety and well being of the customers of the said business and the general public at large.

The case occurred in The city of Bradford which is in the county authority of West Yorkshire in England. Food hygiene and public health authorities received word that large Numbers of rats had been seen frequently behind a certain “greasy spoon” restaurant which was in the proprietorship of a gentleman of Asian origin. The restaurant in question sold cheap fried food to a local population which included English breakfasts, burgers, fish and chips, pies, baked beans and toasted sandwiches.

Bradford city inspectors decided to pay the business a spot visit in order to appraise the reports which they had received. On arrival the inspectors immediately saw that the report pertaining to the presence of large numbers of rats were indeed correct and on entering the premises they found that the kitchen area of the restaurant was in a very run down and unhygienic condition. All of the walls and cooking areas were coated in thick lawyers of congealed, stale grease. All the frying pans contained lawyers of lard which had not been changed for several days and showed evidence of rodent footprints sunken into the surface of the coagulated lard. Rodent and cockroach dropping were evident both on the floor and on shelves. Cockroaches had infested all equipment and storage spaces and the inspectors actually felt their feet sticking to the floor as they walked.

Out of date supplies were found in all areas of the kitchen, some showing signs of fermentation. Fridges had seemingly never been cleaned and all the shelving and walls of the fridges were covered in the remnants of previous uncleaned spillages. Draining boards and sinks were filthy and piles of unclean dishes filled the sinks.

When confronted about the state of the kitchen the owner of the restaurant simply said that everybody knows that “the dirtier the kitchen the better the food”. Shocked by this reply the inspectors wrote out an order closing the kitchen for a period of two weeks in which time the restaurant was to be brought up to a standard which conformed to food hygiene regulations. Notices were put into the windows informing the public that the restaurant was temporarily closed by order of the department of public health.

After the two weeks were up the health inspectors returned to the restaurant expecting the orders to have been carried out. To their utter bewilderment, not only did they find that absolutely nothing had been done but that the condition of the restaurant was actually much worse that it was at the previous inspection. When asked why he had taken no action to repair the state of his restaurant the proprietor answered that “it was contrary to the principles of his religion to receive orders from unbelievers”.

Shocked by this reply, the inspectors issued another writ of closure on the restaurant and gave him a summons to appear before a court of inquiry to answer the charges against him. After hearing the case the presiding judge ordered that the restaurant be permanently closed and that no restaurant should be re opened on that property. In addition the judge placed a lifetime ban upon the proprietor from ever opening a food business of any sort and issued a large fine upon the man.

We who concern ourselves with food hygiene and safety come across this type of case from time to time. The proprietor in question displayed blatant disregard for the health interests of his customers and the public at large. He violated the trust placed in him when he was awarded a licence to run a food business. He attempted to make cynical use of his religious beliefs to justify his actions and discriminated against the inspectors when he called them non believers. His crass, lazy and obstinate attitude worked against him and he got his just deserves.

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.

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.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Below is an article which is a continuation to the tragic food poisoning events that occurred in a Greyland market stall a few days ago.

The article states that the National environmental agency is prepared to get tougher on food business that lax food hygiene standards by revoking licences to do business. What is important to remember and seems to be lacking in the content of this article is that some offences of food hygiene are blatant breeches of public trust (licences are given by autorities which represent the public interest), knowingly placing members of the public at risk , disregard for legal process and crimanal neglegence. All of these are serious crimes and, in my opinion require much sterner punishment than the mere revoking of a licence. I would like to invite you to read the article and to see it you agree with my analysis.

It is my opinion that all food businesses should keep record of all purchaces of materials used in their business and that there be penalties for buying from any supplier who is not an authorized business operator himself. I believe that the othorities of markets should be placed in charge of checking these issues and that every market should have a resident and qualified round the clock governmental food hygiene inspector. The cost of this should come out of the taxes paid by the market stall operators.

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA), which is responsible for issuing licences for food stalls to operate, says it is satisfied with its current system.

Giving this assurance in the light of the Geylang Serai market food poisoning incident, NEA stressed that it is prepared to get tough with enforcement if unhygienic standards become more rampant.

The NEA manages 109 hawker centres with 5,600 cooked food stalls and another 9,000 market produce stalls.

To get a licence, food handlers have to attend and pass the basic food hygiene course and undergo the necessary medical screenings and inoculations.

Those above 35 years old also have to go through screening for tuberculosis.

But the agency noted an increasing number of hawkers have been issued tickets for food hygiene offences.

102 tickets were issued in 2006, 408 in 2007 and 730 last year.

Khoo Seow Poh, NEA’s director-general of public health, said: “For certain offences, currently we give a warning for a first offence. But if the situation of those kinds of offences becomes more rampant, then we may do away with the warning and straight away go for ticketing.”

Nineteen food stalls were suspended last year after they chalked up the maximum demerit points.

An average of four food poisoning incidents has been reported each year for the past three years. And at least three people were affected in each case.

Mr Khoo said: “As far as stallholders and stall assistants are concerned, it is their responsibility to make sure that the food that is served is safe, and on our part, following this incident, NEA will continue to work with stallholders and hawker associations to see how we can further improve and tighten hygiene regime.”

The NEA says the various hawker centre associations have devised a timetable for the spring cleaning procedures for the various food centres.

In fact spring cleaning is done at least two to three times a year.

Meanwhile NEA officers also check each individual stall at least once in six to eight weeks.

The Geylang Serai temporary market had its last round of spring cleaning last October.

But that did not get rid of the rats there.

Since last Friday, 41 rats have been killed by pest companies.

So is setting up a temporary market a good option?

Mr Khoo said: “It depends on the needs of the stallholders. If the upgrading period is long, some stallholders may need to make a livelihood to operate.

“Of course, NEA does provide them with vacant stalls for them to operate but some of them prefer to stay put to operate in the same area, because they want their regular customers to come back to them. We have to work with them to fulfil that.”

The new Geylang Serai market is expected to be ready by the end of this year.

animal-655308_1280I can remember when I was about fourteen years old I went on a school trip to see a steel mill in Sheffield England. Three things impressed me on that trip. These three things were the noise, the heat and the rats. I could hardly believe my eyes. Not a bite of food in sight and yet rats were scurrying around not twenty yards away from where we were walking.


I can remember wondering why rats would bother about a steel mill. There was not a morsel of food in sight. It was not until fifteen years later that I would find the answer to that question.  Yet the fact remains that rats do infest many types of factories.

If the common denominator for rats establishing presence in factories and mills wasn’t food then what was it? In 1991 I began a course of practical Engineering in agriculture. It was during this course that I found out why rats infested many types of industrial plants. The reason is copper. Mice have trouble getting enough copper to be able to operate their immune systems and the missing link that enables them to do so is copper.

All industrial operations run on electricity and electricity runs through copper wires. Rats peel away the plastic coating on electric cables and lick the wire to get more copper and they do this obcessively. People who have worked in factories will know that from time to time they will hear an almighty bang. More often than not this bang is caused by a rat short circuting an electric cable. Needless to say that the rat is dead.

Why an I telling you this? Because one needs to understand that if rats had no reason to infest a food factory, they would still be there because of the copper wiring.

Food factories can be categorized into two main categories. Ones that process raw agricultural produce, plant or animal and ones that process food that has already been processed for industrial use.  In the first example produce is brought from the farm or co-operative sorting plant to the factory. Here the produce is tipped, washed, sorted and peeled or alternatively slaughtered, skinned, gutted and cleaned in the case of most animal produce.

In both cases the amount of dirt and contamination that is around at this intitial stage of the game is quite unbelievable and it is at this stage of the process that most rats are found. Only an ongoing, organized and regular cleaning regime can reduce the presence of rats and mice.

Once the produce has finished this init ial stage it is then passed to the next stage. Whatever the stage the amount of dirt should be very minimal compared to that of the first stage. As the product progresses towards packing the work environment should be almost sterile in comparison.

There are systems that analyze the risks and points at which one can reduce risks to food products. One such system is called HACCP. HACCP means hazard analysis and critical control points. In this system each hazard is defined and critical control points at which the level of the hazard can be reduced, eliminated or controlled are also defined and adopted.

There may well be one sequence of actions to control vermin and an entirely differnt sequence for the control of bacteria, for instance. It is the job of management to ensure that workerd are familiar with all the various sequences and to make sure that they are adopted and applied.

When this system is implemented in all of the factories various departments threats such as salmonella poisoning from rats is greatly reduced. Trouble can start when priorities and sequences are changed for one reason or another. The enemy of the HACCP system is cut backs. Cut backs in staff or cut backs in spending. Right now we are in the midst of a recession. In recession we can expect cut backs on more or less everything.

In plants where produce is immediately pumped through stainless steel pipes the opportunity for vermin to contaminate the produce is greatly lowered. Businesses such as bakeries may enocounter problems with rats at the end of the process rather than at the initial stages. For some reason mice  rats and cats do not seem to like white flour and prefer to wait until it has been transformed into bread products. Here pest control is particularly important because there is no process between contamination and the consumer that will kill the bacteria that have been transferred through cross contamination.  Nothing should be left unattended at this stage. Nothing should be but directly on the floor and nothingshould be put into plastic trays that have not been washed thoroughly in a proper industrial manner. To fail to be attentive to this points can cause indirect contamination via contact with vermin excretions.

The golden rule is to leave noting to chance. Always pre suppose that anything that can happen in theory will happen in practice.

© 2019 Food Hygiene Essentials