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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

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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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.

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Campylobacter is one of the most common bacterial causes of gastro intestinal diarrheal sickness in the United States of America. The vast majority of these cases occur as isolated and sporadic events and not as part of recognized epidemic like outbreaks. Ongoing surveillance by FoodNet demonstrates that about thirteen cases are diagnosed each year for each 100,000 persons in the population. Many more cases go undiagnosed or unreported, and campylobacteriosis is estimated to affect more than 2.4 million persons each year, or 0.8% of the total population of the USA. This disease is also very common in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Campylobacteriosis occurs far more frequently in the summer months than in the winter months. The organism is isolated from infants and young adults more frequently than from persons in other age groups and from males more frequently than females. Although Campylobacter does not commonly cause death, it has been estimated that approximately 124 persons with Campylobacter infections die each year in the USA.

Campylobacter organisms are spiral-shaped bacteria that can cause disease in humans and animals. Most human illness is caused by one species, called Campylobacter jejuni, but human illness can also be caused by other species. Campylobacter jejuni grows best at the body temperature of a bird, and seems to be well adapted to birds, who carry it without becoming ill. These bacteria are fragile. They cannot tolerate drying and can be killed by oxygen. They grow only in places with less oxygen than the amount in the atmosphere. Freezing reduces the number of Campylobacter bacteria on raw meat.

Almost all persons infected with Campylobacter recover without any specific treatment. Patients should drink extra fluids as long as the diarrhea lasts. In more severe cases, antibiotics such as erythromycin or a fluoroquinolone can be used, and can shorten the duration of symptoms if given early in the illness. Your doctor will decide whether antibiotics are necessary.

Most people who get campylobacteriosis make a complete recovery within two to five days after the onset of symptoms, although sometimes in more serious cases recovery can take up to 10 days. Rarely, Campylobacter infection results in long-term consequences. Some people may develop arthritis. Others may develop a rare disease called Guillain-Barré syndrome that affects the nerves of the body which begins several weeks after the onset diarrheal illness. This occurs when a person’s immune system is triggered to attack the body’s own nerves which results in temporary paralysis that lasts several weeks and usually requires an intensive care regime. It is estimated that approximately one in every 1,000 reported Campylobacter illnesses leads to Guillain-Barré syndrome. As many as 40% of Guillain-Barré syndrome cases in this country may be triggered by campylobacteriosis.Campylobacteriosis usually occurs in single, sporadic cases, but it can also occur in outbreaks, when a number of people become ill at one time. Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these poultry items. Infants may get the infection by contact with poultry meat wrappings in shopping carts. Outbreaks of Campylobacter are usually associated with unpasteurized milk or contaminated water. Animals can also be infected, and some people have acquired their infection from contact with the stool of infected dogs or cats. The organism is not usually spread from one person to another, but this can happen if the infected person is producing large volumes of diarrhea and/or vomit. A very small number of Campylobacter organisms (fewer than 500) can cause illness in humans. Even one drop of juice from raw chicken meat can infect a person. One way to become infected is to cut poultry meat on a chopping board, and then use the unwashed chopping board and knife or other utensils which came into contact with the raw meat to prepare vegetables or other raw or lightly cooked foods. The Campylobacter organisms from the raw meat can by these means spread to the other food products.

Many chicken flocks are infected with Campylobacter but may very well show no signs of illness. Campylobacter can be easily passed from bird to bird through a common water source or through contact with infected feces of other birds. When an infected bird is slaughtered, Campylobacter organisms can be transferred from the intestines to the meat. Likewise, the bacteria can infect a whole batch of birds via the presence of the bacteria being present on equipment and on the hands and/or the gloves of the slaughter house workers who do not wash hands between each bird they handle. In 2005, Campylobacter was present on 47% of raw chicken breasts tested through the FDA-NARMS Retail Food program. Campylobacter is also present in the giblets, especially the liver.

Unpasteurized milk can become contaminated if the cow has an infection with Campylobacter in her udder or milk which has been contaminated with manure. Surface water and mountain streams can become contaminated from infected feces from cows or wild birds. This infection is common in the developing world, and travelers to foreign countries are also at risk for becoming infected with Campylobacter.

1573Add to Technorati FavoritesI was asked to help solve a problem concerning cross contamination and product quality control in one of the smaller fruit juice factories in our area yesterday. The factory in question has a capacity to produce 72,000 liters of various fruit juices, fruit drinks and fruit nectar and ice teas. The factory basically consists of two departments, a mixing department and a bottling department. The products are either packed in glass bottles, plastic bottles or tetra pak cartons.

All of the concentrates are poured into the 18,000 liter vats via a barrel tipping machine and a suction device for rotoplasts. The concentrates are pumped through a pipe console which directs the concentrates in to one of four vats in the mixing department.

The factory had started producing tomato juice several months ago and since the onset of this production the company has been experiencing problems with the shelf life and color of products. They had tried every way they could imagine to clean the pipes leading into the tanks but to no avail. Tomato paste is very thick and viscose which makes it a difficult product to work with. Tomato paste tends to travel through pipes in pulses and because of this it coats the pipes evenly from the inside. Thinner and less solid substances such as caustic soda solution tends to run along the bottom of pipes and will only reach the top extremities for brief moments. This makes cleaning tomato paste particularly problematic.

I could smell the presence of tomato concentrate coming out of all of the pipes. There was no question that there was a grave danger of the tomato residue in the pipes fermenting. After a little thought this was my solution to the problem:

1) only to use two of the tanks for producing tomato paste. The effect this would have would be to reduce any possible risk by 50% from the outset.

2) to install separate feed pipes into those two tanks for tomato paste. This would leave the pipes for other products uncontaminated by tomato paste.

3) To dilute the tomato paste with 50% chilled water in a 500 liter mixing tank which was already on site.(2 degrees centigrade) prior to being pumped into the tanks. This would cause the concentrate to be less viscose and much easier to clean during the CIP process.

4)To dissemble and to clean the pump on the barrel tipping machine after every use.

5) To dissemble all pipes weekly and to immerse them in caustic soda solution.

6) To clean all pneumatic valves with a special industrial pipe cleaning brush from all directions.

At the end of the meeting with the department head, production manager, head of quality control and the general manager, all my suggestions were accepted and will be implemented within one working week. I will conduct a follow up check one month from today.

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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.

kitchen-487973_1920A number of people have contacted me in request that I give some information about sterilizing cooking pots and other kitchen utensils. For most of us in the western world it is not absolutely necessary to sterilize pots as long as we make sure that we wash them thoroughly in very hot water and washing up detergent and a scrubbing pad. In other areas of the world or in situations where pots have been out in field conditions for any period of time, especially in areas where disease is prevalent, the need to continually sterilize pots may be a critical factor in the prevention of food contamination and the recontamination of sick people and the promotion of food hygiene in areas where it does not exist.
Firstly we need to look at the different types of cooking pots. The easiest type of kitchen cooking utensil to sterilize is stainless steel because we can clean it chemically without changing its properties. Other forms of pots present more problems. In Africa it is very common to cook in what, in some places, is called a “poike”. If I am not mistaken this is an Afrikaans word for a cast iron cooking pot. It is cast from a thick sheet of iron or steel and is designed to sit over an open fire. They come in many different sizes and are usually very heavy indeed. They have usually been treated with blackening so they have an outer covering. They also have a thick metal carrying handle that is attached to the rim of the pot across its diameter.
Another form of cooking pot is the aluminum pot. the advantages of aluminum are that it is lightweight and heats up very quickly. The disadvantages of aluminum are that it reacts to just about every form of chemical used to sterilize kitchen equipment. Even the acid in tomatoes, lemon and eggplants remove the essential oxidized layer on aluminum pots. The metal is relatively weak and handles usually fall off after a period of use.
Copper is another form of metal use to make cooking pots but utensils made from copper are normally expensive and in my opinion would not be used in areas of the world which require the sterilization of cooking equipment. In any case we can class it as having very similar properties to aluminum from a cleaning perspective.
Probably the oldest and most traditional way to sterilize all forms of cooking equipment is to boil them in boiling water. Adding some salt to the water will help in the disinfecting process and it will slightly increase the boiling temperature of the water and destroy more bacteria. The advantage of this system is that the pots and pans are immediately ready for use after sterilization. The disadvantages are that the equipment has to be 100% clean before going into the sterilization pot and they require a minimum of thirty minutes to boil before it is safe to take them out. Boiling does not ensure that all types of bacteria will be destroyed and some toxins can survive boiling.
Continuing with the theme of using water to sterilize kitchen equipment another efficient way to sterilize pots and pans is with steam. Steam is much hotter than water it will sterilize things that come into contact with it much more quickly. Using steam under pressure also removes baked on fats and other sediments. Steam treatment is OK for all types of metals but Steam is dangerous and requires that special equipment be worn before working with it safely and efficiently. This equipment should include thick plastic apron, thick plastic or neoprene gloves (not surgical gloves) and eye protection goggles. Like with water the advantage of steam is that equipment can be put straight back into use with no further treatment other than washing with a mild detergent and rinsing with water.
Caustic Soda is the next form of sterilization which I would like to talk about. Caustic Soda destroys all forms or organic material. Concentrated caustic soda needs to be diluted with water and heated to a temperature of no more than 80 degrees Celsius. Caustic soda breaks down at temperatures above 80 degrees Celsius and ceases to be effective.
Great care must be taken with caustic soda because it is very dangerous and can cause serious burns and blindness if it gets into your eyes. People using caustic soda should be properly trained and should also wear protective clothing which should include a thick plastic apron, thick neoprene gloves and a full industrial plastic face mask. This chemical is only suitable for stainless steel, plastic and glass. Other forms of metal will be affected by the chemical reaction of the soda. Aluminum may even be eaten away completely.
The use of caustic soda is also good for removing stubborn cooked on foods. The disadvantage of using soda is that it needs to be washed off dishes completely before they can be used again. Most big kitchen will use a high pressure tray washing machine to do this. If your water supply is not infected you may want to consider rinsing the pots in boiling water to avoid re contamination.
Caustic soda melts the fat in your skin if it spills onto the skin and it causes a slimy film on the surface of the skin until it is properly washed off with cold water. Wash until this feeling has completely gone. Caustic soda is also good for cleaning glass, ceramic and plastic utensils.
Yet another method of sterilizing kitchen equipment is to soak it in hot water and chlorine cleaning powder. Chlorine kitchen powder is also good for removing stubborn stains on ceramics, glass and Pyrex. This type of sterilization will react with aluminum and will remove the oxidized lawyer on the surface of the aluminum which is necessary to remove the toxicity of aluminum. Pots may become unusable if exposed to chlorine powder; therefore, I do not advise using chlorine powder to sterilize aluminum
This form of sterilization requires that equipment be soaked for about three to four hours for good results. Similarly to the use of chlorine must be washed off completely with a mild detergent before reusing treated equipment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The points will be numbered:
Kitchen Ramp:

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

Kitchen:

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

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

© 2019 Food Hygiene Essentials