Understanding Moulds

Eggs and food hygiene are two topics that don’t always go hand in hand. Eggs are the produce of the rear end of chickens, to put it bluntly. What is more is that after collection they may not be cleaned, by law! However, this does happens. Some egg farms separate dirty eggs together egg-1240747_1920and instead of being destroyed the farmer will place a worker to wash them with some kind of brush and water. This happens especially in countries where hygiene inspection is not all it should be. Also, in chicken runs that have older chickens in them the rate of egg laying drops. This means that eggs may not usually collected for several days. On top of that, the lack of human presents allows rats to roam freely and eat eggs. Their trail of Urine will be on the eggs that remain intact.

Chicken farms keep hens in very crowded conditions. All their bodily functions occur in that same space. Typically six hens are kept in a small cage of about 60 to 70 centimeters in length. The Hen has a water channel in front of the cage which is communal to all the cages in the row and similarly a feed channel. Underneath the cage runs a belt which is rotated periodically to a place into which the feces drops into a worm operated channel that takes the feces out of the building. However, this is the good scenario. In many countries the feces simply collects on the floor and is not collected until the chickens are changed.Other battery visitors may include snakes, otters, weasels, martins, pole cats, mongoose, pigeons and more.

Because of all of these factors the hens production life is of great importance to the farmers and it is for this reason that they often give hens large quantities of antibiotics that find their way into the eggs and effect humans by killing many essential species of bacteria that need to be in the human digestive system. This can directly effect your health and that of the very young and the elderly particularly.

Some eggs are sterilized by radiation. This, however is no guarantee that antibiotics will be destroyed. Personally, I do my very best not to eat eggs as do many veterinarians, doctors and food hygiene experts.

Eggs should be stored in a closed container when in the fridge. and I do mean air sealed. Also, the storage container should be washed and soaked in sterilizing fluid before filling it with a new batch of eggs. Do not put uncooked eggs in food preparation surfaces, put them in a side trolley or in a dish in the sink. Throw eggs shells away immediately after you open the eggs and then wash your hands. Eggs should be opened individually into a small bowl and examined for freshness before adding to the bowl with the opened eggs in it. After all direct contact with eggs wash hands and dishes immediately in hot water and detergent before continuing with the dish being prepared. Never serve raw eggs in any way. Never serve soft boiled eggs or eggs with a liquid yolk. The risks are just too great. Also,never buy eggs that have been kept in warm conditions, (not refrigerated). With eggs the rule of thumb is to always err on the side of caution.

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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.

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.

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