Food Production Lines

child-818432_1920By: Mila Sidman
So your baby is ready for solids! It’s always exciting when your baby reaches a new milestone, but when it comes to feeding babies it’s safe to say most parents are a little nervous. If you’re planning on making your own homemade baby food, here are a few simple tips.

First of all, relax… making baby food is simple. You don’t need many ingredients, special equipment (except a blender or food processor) or much time.

Apart from saving you money, making your own baby food provides fantastic nutrition for your little one and gives you peace of mind. After all you know exactly what’s gone into your baby’s food, how it was prepared and the quality of ingredients used.

Most pediatricians advice babies should be be between 4 and 6 months before starting solids. Rice cereal is usually the first food of choice as it doesn’t contain wheat (which can be harder for babies to digest) and most babies can easily tolerate it.
If you’re not sure if your baby is ready for solids always ask your pediatrician first.

It’s always best to introduce one new food at a time just in case your baby has an allergic reaction to a certain food. This will make it easier to pinpoint which foods caused it.

Here’s an easy step-by-step guide to making baby food.

Hygiene:

There’s no need to sterilize feeding equipment as you would baby bottles and teats, but you should wash everything you’ll be using in hot soapy water before starting. It’s also smart to wipe down the counter top and work area before starting.

As with regular cooking, it’s important to use a separate chopping board for meat to avoid cross contamination. And do not let raw food come into contact with cooked food.

Always thaw frozen baby food in the refrigerator. Thawing the food at room temperature may breed bacteria which can cause illness.

Equipment:

A food processor, blender or hand-held blender is ideal for a very smooth consistency. Once your baby is used to solids you can simply mash the food with a fork.

Preferably your baby should sit in a high chair or other upright child safety seat. Baby should be upright at all times to help food digestion and avoid choking.

To feed baby a few simple plastic bowls and spoons without rough edges will do. And don’t forget to get a few packs of baby bibs and have plenty of cleaning cloths handy!

Preparation:

Scrub and peel fruits and vegetables well.

Remove all fat, skin, and bones from fresh meat. Always check to make sure the meat is fresh. If you have any doubts as to the freshness of the meat, it’s best not to use it as it’s just not worth your baby getting sick.

Use only a small amount of water when cooking to avoid loosing valuable nutrients. Many vegetables can be steamed to preserve nutrients.

Never add any seasonings, salt, sugar, or other sweeteners. This will make the food too strong for your baby’s taste buds and can actually make him ill.

Transfer cooked food to a food processor and process until smooth (adding a little of the cooking water if necessary) or use a hand-held blender.

For a thicker consistency, simply mash the food using a fork. You can always add a little breast milk or formula to make it smoother.

* Medical literature advices egg whites, strawberries, honey and peanut products should be avoided until 12 months of age as they have been known to cause allergies in young children.

Storage:

As baby’s only eat a small amount of food, freezing is ideal for baby food. There are several ways you can do this.

One of the easiest ways is to fill up an ice cube tray with any unused baby food (do not save any leftover food from your baby’s bowl or that has been contaminated by your baby’s saliva). Once the food is frozen immediately transfer to individual plastic bags. Depending on how much your baby eats, place a few cubes of baby food in each bag. Don’t forget to label and date it.

Advice varies on how long you should freeze baby food for. Most experts agree frozen baby food should not be kept longer than 3 months. Ideally, try not to keep the food longer than one month as it may loose some of its nutritional content as time passes. Remember your baby doesn’t eat very much at first so make smaller batches.

You can also place small amounts of food in individual plastic containers with lids, and stick labelling tape to the top of the lid.

Reheating:

Easily reheat frozen food by placing it in a heat-proof bowl. Place the bowl in or over a pan of simmering water. Gently reheat while stirring occasionally.

You can also reheat the food in the microwave. This will save you time, but be extra careful as the food will be hotter in some places more than others. Always stir the food and taste it before serving to make sure it’s not too hot. Always, let the food sit for a minute or two before serving to baby. Stir again just before serving.

Always thaw frozen baby food in the refrigerator. Do not thaw baby food at room temperate as it can breed bacteria.

That’s it… a few simple steps to making your own baby food. Homemade baby food will save you money but best of all you’ll be giving your baby the most nutritious foods possible.

For tons of delicious family-friendly recipes, nutrition articles, tips, resources and free recipe newsletter, visit http://www.easy-kid-recipes.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Mila_Sidman

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.

salmonella-549608_1280Today’s post is a story that I heard from a colleague about a vegetable processing plant that became infected with salmonella and e. coli.

Please understand that this is a major international company and it is for this reason that I cannot disclose any names in the content of this article. This particular plant buys vegetables of all sorts directly from large farms and after grading, cleaning and sorting the vegetables are frozen and packed for the consumer and institutional markets.

The company in question works with just two or three trucking companies which bring the raw materials to the plant and deliver shipments of finished product to the local and foreign markets. Good relationships had been established with the trucking companies which included both the haulage companies and the factory itself helping each other out as much as possible as a matter of course. This factory had the best weigh bridge in the area and one of the favors that was performed on an ongoing basis was to weigh trucks of the said three companies even though the payload of the trucks had nothing to do with the business of the factory.

Complaints had been arriving at the factory’s quality control department stating that their products had tested positive for salmonella and e.coli. The factory checked all of their production lines to check that everything was working as it should and indeed no faults were found inside the factory itself.

A decision was taken to bring in an expert in the area of HACCP’s. and indeed it took him a mere five minutes to discover the source of the problem. Many different types of trucks were coming in to be weighed. Among them were trucks hauling the following cargoes: cages for chickens and turkeys being shipped from farms to slaughter houses, deep litter from dairy farms and poultry farms, various types of manure, and soil.

Trucks carrying these loads often waited for quite some time alongside trucks hauling vegetables for the factory itself. Dust and spray that inevitably flew from one truck to another was enough to cause the cross contamination of the vegetables with whatever the other truck was hauling.. This was a very basic and critical flaw in the work procedures and food hygiene standards of this particular factory. This situation was more than enough to cause this food hygiene crisis for this particular factory.

A decision was instantly taken to stop the weighbridge service to all trucks not carrying vegetables specifically for the plant. In this particular case, good intentions led to a very bad result.

Add to Technorati Favorites

OK, enough of the serious stuff for a while. Now it’s time for some frivolity in the form of cooking a couple of good chicken recipes. Here’s a two of my favorites. I hope you will like them too.

Remember that in order to keep your chicken bacteria free and to avoid all forms of food contamination please adhere to all the principles frood hygiene essentials stated throughout this blog.

Chicken Fillet Snitzels
This one’s so easy
Ok, Bascially you need to serve about 3-5 pieces per person to really sastisfy the apetite.
So work out how many pieces you need and then flatten the fillets gently between a plastic sheet (I prefer using a rolling pin for this).

Ingredients:
Chicken fillets.
3-4 eggs
1 cup of flour
bread crumbs
salt & pepper
sesame seeds.
Italian Herb mixture (optional).

We have already covered how to prepare the Fillets so I won’t go into that again. Next you will need 3 bowls or plates. In one you put the eggs which you will beat, in another the flour and in the last the bread crumbs, sesame and herbs. Add a little salt and pepper to the flour and to the crumbs.

Take each fillet individually and flour. Ater flouring dip into the egg. Shake off any excess liquid and place into the bread crumbs. Cover the fillet with the crumbs and press lightly. Remove onto a clean and dry tray or plate and repeat the precedure until all the fillets are breaded. If you have a lot of pieces you can divide the layers by using grease proof paper or baking paper.

To avoid the possibility of bacterial growth within the chicken or cross contamination between the eggs and the chicken keep the preparation time as short as possible. Twenty minutes should be ample time for this process and it will help to prevent the the devision of bacteria. Wile you are breading the shnitzels start to heat your oil. The time interval between finishing breading and frying should also be as brief as possible. It you can, serve straight from the frier, if not keep at a temperature of at least 65 degrees celsius until served. Any leftovers should be cooled and refrigerated to avoid bacterial contamination.

Now take a frying pan and add about 1/2cm. of cooking oil. Heat and fry the snitzels on both sides until golden brown. Serve with fries , rice or pasta. Add a little lemon and your favorite dip to the side of the plate. Don’t forget to eat plenty of fresh vegetable salad at least once a day.

Chicket Fillet Fajitas in fried Tortillas
My Personal Recipe
This recipe make a great main course, Brunch or between meal hunger stopper.

For this you will need about 5 fillets per portion.

Other Ingredients:
1 medium tomato (sliced) per 2 portions
1/2 green pepper per 2 portions(sliced)
1/2 medium sized onion per 2 portions(sliced)
Tomato puree
1-2 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
Cumin
Chopped corriander
Corn starch
Cooking oil
Chilli Pepper or sweet chilli pepper sauce.
Tortillas

Equipment:
2 frying pans.

Before you start to fry rub the bottom of the pan with the garlic cloves. Slice the chicken fillets length ways and fry on a deep skillet. Add the onions and work in stir frying carefully for about 1 minute. Add peppers stir frying for about 1 minute also. Now add the tomatoes mixing gently until they begin to show signs of softening. Add salt & black pepper to taste. Put in about 1/2 teaspoon of cumin per 2 portions (reducing by 1/4 teaspoon for each 2 extra portions added). Add the chilli pepper or sweet chilli sauce. Add a little tomato puree to intensify the colour.

Now blend in the chopped corriander adding an ammount according to your own taste preference. Add a little sugar if the mixture needs it. Because you are going to fill the tortillas with the fajitas mixture it needs to be a little firm so mix a teaspoon of corn starch diluted in a little water into the fajitas to make the sauce a little less runny. Put the tortillas onto a table and fill them lenghwise with your fajitas mix. Roll them up gently making sure not to split them. Add a little beaten egg onto the lip of the tortilla and set aside. Now heat another frying pan with about 11/2 cm. of coking oil. Heat to a temperature of the oil 150 degrees centigrade Now add your tortillas to the oil carefully taking care not to get burned or to spill the content of the tortillas out. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove and place on kitchen paper to soak up the excess oil. Serve on lutuce with salza mexican rice or fries. Buon Apetite

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.

Add to Technorati Favorites

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.

Add to Technorati Favorites

For many years my institutional kitchen operated in a very traditional way. We had a weekly menu and we would prepare each meal on and for the day it was intended. We would do essential preparations the day before after the day’s meal was closed. I was very proud of the variety and quality of the meals we put out. Very few five star hotels could match us for product quality, variety and taste.

One day an opportunity was presented to me. I was asked to prepare food for two other institutions the same size as my own. I knew that we were hard pressed to put out our own meal so how was I going to triple the work load. As things were my staff were going home at the end of their physical strength. It is a really hard days work to prepare food for one thousand five hundred people per day. I was going to have to think of a way of re organizing my whole operation without compromising quality.

One day I was reading a professional food industry magazine when I saw an advertisement for a new piece of equipment that looked, well, very much like an oven to be honest. The piece of equipment in question was called a blast chiller. The ad. claimed that the system could cool forty trays of food to twenty degrees in less than an hour. This claim intrigued me and so I contacted the company which was marketing the product.

After introductions the guy in the showroom said to me, “why waste time talking, lets go to see the product where it is being used every day”. I agreed at once, after all, actions speak louder than words.

After seeing the machine in action I knew that I was going to have a very personal relationship with a blast chiller. I knew that this one piece of equipment was the key to being able to triple my work load. The blast chiller was ordered and arrived one month later.

Without putting too much strain on the staff I had been making bigger batches of food and freezing them in my deep freeze. I knew that this was not ideal without my blast chiller but I had to have some inventory to be able to make the switch from cooking for 1500 people to cooking for over 4000 overnight.

I arranged a time for a staff meeting and told them how they would be working from then on. I told them that we would not be working as we had worked up to now. we would not be preparing meals for a daily deadline, instead we would be preparing stocks of food for the freezer. We would be reducing our daily task load from over eighteen Items per day to three of four. I told them that this would allow us to prepare bigger loads with fewer periods of transition from one task to another and we would be greatly reducing the risk of cross contamination by having fewer things flying around the kitchen.

What we would continue to prepare on a daily basis were soups, salads and things that couldn’t be frozen. All seemed interested in the new system but seemed a little puzzled. I asked them to trust me, they would not be working any harder and they would be given a wage raise for handling the extra volume.

Staff at the other two kitchens was cut to one third of what it previously was. It would be their job to receive the food the day before and to heat the meal up on the day. I bought small truck for transporting the food to the other kitchens. It was a truck with a cooler unit inside so that the food could be kept at a constant temperature of two degrees.

And so we started pumping our vast quantities of hot food which was rapidly cooled by the blast chiller and sent to one of the freezers within an two hours of coming out of the oven. To be able to do this operation successfully I took control of all the cooking trays and baking trays from the other kitchens We all used gastronorm trays so that did not present any problems. I did have to buy about 200 more but I had taken that into account and added the price to the cost of the food the others bought spread out over a two year period which I calculated to be the life expectancy of a cooking tray.

The system was working very well and the clients seemed very happy. Soon two more kitchens approached me to prepare food. I agreed to take on the extra work. I employed two more experienced members of staff and to tell you they truth we hardly felt the difference. I was now preparing food for upwards of seven thousand diners per day. The staff we now working very systematically, there was very little panic, everybody was smiling. What could be better.

My job was to formulate the recipes in such a way that diners would not feel that they were getting the same food all the time, to make sure all members of staff knew what they had to do, to make sure that the kitchen was cleaned before moving from an uncooked stage to a cooked stage and vise versa and to make sure that the end kitchens were handling and presenting the food correctly so that at each end dining room the presentation would look identical to all the other places.

And now I am going to tell you what the real key to running such a big operation is. Good technical staff. An operation like this needs  up keep and hitches do happen regularly. You need to be able to rely on your technical staff to solve problems quickly and professionally. I also aways have one oven more than I need. For this type of work I prefer to use a combi steamer oven. It is very versatile and is adaptable to many different cooking climates.

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.

Add to Technorati Favorites

They say, never judge a book by it’s cover. The same can be said about wine. I have one criteria that I use to judge a good wine and that is how good is it to drink?  Beverage quality and safety is not a science known only to the big wine producers.

I have bought so many expensive wines only to be completely and utterly disappointed that now I have absolutely no inhibitions about buying wine for one tenth of the price. Some small and quite obscure winerys are making very superior wines for a fraction of the price that you would pay for a Chateau Rothschild, for instance. To  find good cheaper wines I make a habit of going to my favorite wine merchants on days when he is having a wine tasting open day and make a point of tasting a good few of the cheaper wines as well as the more expensice ones. A good merchant, if he knows that you have an open mind, will give you tips about “little gems”  he has found. To be honest, usually it is enough to see the wine against the light to know it’s quality 

Generally speaking, about one third of the wines are not worth a second thought. One third are about the standard that you might expect from a three star restaurant and one third are really worth drinking. On deciding which wines I really like, I buy about two or three crates of assorted wines ranging from cabernet sauvignon to beaujolais.  I try do this about every couple of months.

I never let my dinner guests know that they are drinking bargain basement choices because all wine at my table is decantered. All that they ever know is that they are drinking a wine that is well worth drinking. It also gives me a sense of pride to know that I am helping lesser vineyards to raise their heads and take their true place among the established vineyards as truly good wine making professionals. The condition for this is that they continue to produce wines of a superior standard at competitive prices.

Some say that there is a lot of snobbery around the subject of wine drinking. I tend to agree with that to a degree because people who pay great sums for their wine, often have little or no idea of the wine making process. I have, in the past, tasted really expensive wines to which hydrochloric acid has been added in an attempt to cover up faults in the fermentation process. To those who know about wine, that is one of the most grievous cardinal sins possible to commit. Hydrochloric acid, when diluted to a concentration of five percent is synthetic vinegar. I don’t know about you but I most certainly do not want vinegar in my wine.

Adding hydrochloric acid is a technique that is sometimes used by winemakers who have fouled up the natural acid balance within the wine. By adding hydrochloric acid they are able to cover their mistakes to some degree and hopefully, those who are not experts in wine tasting will never know the difference.

If vineyards are faced with the eventuality of selling the majority of their years production as red wine vinegar they are tempted to use such inferior tactics. So, beware. It’s well worth Joining a good wine tasting course so that you’ll know the difference between good and bad wine and indeed, learn how to enjoy your wine much more.

Part of making really great wine has to do with maintaining correct hygiene conditions. We should always remember that the wine making process uses the yeast which is a naturally occuring micro-organism which grows on the skin of the grape. During the fermentation process the grape juice can pick up many forms of cross contamination in the form of various types of bacteria or undesirable forms of fungus which, if not prevent from entering the grape juice, will spoil or reduce the quality of the final wine. Cross contamination may well be the main cause of wine spoilage. All wineries are susceptible to  contamination precicely for the reason that they are processing a product which comes straight out of a fiels where it has been exposes to the surrounding environment for many months.

So, the message is that there is no absolute connection between the drinkability of wine and price. You will find many, many excellent wines from non label wine makers. Take a little time to discover those you like, enjoy the thrill of discovering priceless gems in the most unexpected places and save yourself a whole lot of money at the same time.

Add to Technorati Favorites

All food preparation, be it in a factory, restaurant of home kitchen is prepared in stages. Raw material comes in at one end and a finished product comes out of the other end. As far as I am concerned, this makes the preparation of food a production line.

I have worked in the food industry for quite some time and I know how to apply the production line principle to any situation. It is this principle which I would like to write about today.

Every production line begins with choosing the raw materials you are going to work with. You need to identify who your suppliers will be and be very clear on why you want to work with them. Firstly, you should get to know their reputation for reliability. If you have a business to run you do not want to be left without supplies. Several questions need to be asked. Is the produce fresh? Is the quality good? Is it consistently good? Is the price fair? Is it delivered in the appropriate conditions as defined by law?

Once you have chosen your suppliers your next task is to ensure that products delivered are stored in a correct manner. Frozen produce goes straight to the freezers, keeping meat and fish separate from frozen vegetables and dough products. Fresh vegetables should be stored by themselves as should meat, fish and eggs. Dry foods such as pasta, spices, canned food, flour, salt, sugar, legumes, should all be stored in a dry pantry.

In all kitchens the morning should start with the cleaning of vegetables. Some kitchens may have machines to assist workers perform these tasks, other mostly smaller kitchens will do all this by hand. In the kitchens I worked in, we had a separate enclosed department to each function so we could continue to work on all stages of food preparation all day. Smaller kitchens are not lucky enough to have this luxury so food must be prepared in stages. I strongly advise that all staff wear disposable aprons while they are cleaning vegetables fish or poultry.

After the vegetables have been cleaned and stored away the kitchen should be thoroughly cleaned and prepared for the next stage. The next logical stage would be to prepare fish and any other type of meat or poultry that needs cleaning, cutting, deboning, mincing or any other form of initial preparation. Again, the kitchen should be thoroughly cleaned before moving onto the next stage.

Once all the initial preparation and cleaning has been finished we can now concentrate on the preparation of the food dishes themselves. Remember, when preparing your menu you will still be bringing potential elements of cross contamination into the kitchen. The most dangerous of these will include eggs, milk products, tin cans, bottles and spices. You must never put any of the items that you bring into the kitchen at this stage onto the work surfaces on which you are preparing food. Always keep them on a service trolley.  Remember to always wash your hands after you have touched any item which has not been cleaned during the initial preparation stages. Do not put anything like eggs directly into your food dish. Always open them into a small bowl to inspect them first taking out any egg shell that may have fallen into the egg..

Remember to implement food hygiene principles at all times. Keep meats away from salads. Do not prepare meat or fish together with vegetables that are to be served separately. Wash your hands and tools when moving from task to task.

Most of all clean your work area completely when you are plating your food. Make sure that plates are hot. Make sure that they have not come into contact with any stage of food preparation and most of all make sure that the person serving the food is both immaculately clean and in good health.

So in conclusion, the preparation of food should be undertaken in stages. Each stage should be completed and the work area cleaned before moving onto the next task. By doing this you are ensuring correct food hygiene procedure by avoiding cross contamination and by doing so bringing the risk of food poisoning down as far as is humanly possible. Knowledge, preparation, organization and attention to detail are the key to good food hygiene and quality food production. This is the job of the chef. A chef never compromises on correct food preparation procedure.

© 2019 Food Hygiene Essentials