Fake M&M’s?

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.

bacteria-108895_1920Pseudomonas bacteria are a genus of bacteria which exist widely in the environment. They are gram negative, rod shaped, non spore forming, motile, flagellated aerobes. Pseudomonas aeruginosea, probably the most well know of all pseudomonas strains, is an opportunistic pathogen that has the capability of adapting to many niches. It can infect animals and humans alike and can cross the species barrier and for this reason it is considered a potentially zoonotic pathogen. This type of bacteria is immune to many types of bacteria because it has within it’s cell wall a mechanism known as an efflux pump which pumps antibiotics back out of the cell before they have had time to take effect. It is the second most common bacterial contaminant in hospitals and it is known to be paticularly malicious in burn units where it prevents the regeneration of healthy tissue. Bacteria of the pseudomonas family are grown on blood agar which turns from a blood red color to a marine blue/green hue. It also gives off a quite pleasant slightly minty smell.

One form of Pseudomonas pathogen causes a highly contageous disease in horses which is also highly infectious to humans. The disease in horses is know as glanders because it affects the glands in and around the throat and jaws of the horse. This disease was common when colonial forces shipped large quantities of horses to places like Africa, the Middle East and the Far East. Now, this disease is more rarer. The scientific name of this pathogen is Pseudomonas Mallei and it is registered as one of the possible bacterial strains that could be used in bacterial warefare together with Clostridium Botolinum and Anthrax.

Other forms of Pseudonas bacteria are known to cause spoilage in food at low temperatures. These psicrophilic Pseudomonas strains include: P. fragi which causes spoilage of dairy products , P. taetrolens which causes mustiness in eggs and P. mudicolens, and P. lundensis, which causes spoilage of milk, cheese, meat, and fish.

The term spoilage is used in food hygiene for a condition by which the food takes on an unpleasant texture, color change smell taste. This does not mean that the food has necessarily become a serious health risk in the same way as if meat were infected with e.coli or salmonella, for instance, but at the same time it is definitely not advisable to eat spoiled food. It means that the food has been infected with bacteria which cause the physical nature of the food to change. For instance, meat may become slimy to the feel or the outer lawyer of certain foods may become pulpy, it may also smell slightly sour and change color. This happens to food which has been stored in refrigerated conditions for long periods of time in places which have not been properly cleaned with anti bacterial disinfectants. I often see this condition in places such as deli counters where meat is sliced in front of the customer.

However a little slime on meat, such as with cured pastrami in particular and with other types of processed meats is not always a sign of spoilage. It may well be due to a reaction between the protein of the meat, the curing chemicals and the air. Many manufacturers now use preservatives to prevent such spoilage. In addition, the reaction of the preservative with the air and other factors within the meat can cause the color of the product to change slightly as well. The color of the may become slightly irridescent or take on a greenish hue. If the meat smells even the slightest bit sour, feels or looks slimy or has a bad color refuse to accept it.

Spoiled food such as cured meats meat can cause stomach discomfort, diarrhea, vomiting or mild allergic symptoms in some people and may even become more serious in people whose immune system is compromised. Remember this central rule of food hygiene, “When in doubt throw it out”.

Fish products are particularly susceptible to spoilage and it can be very difficult to guess from a casual inspection if the deterioration of the fish is due to spoilage bacteria such as the psicrophilic pseudonmonas species stated above or if the cause is due to more dangerous, pathogenic forms of bacteria. If fish looks even slightly slimy, discolored or smells in the least sour don’t buy it or if it has turned bad in your fridge throw it out and clean you fridge thoroughly with disinfectant. (A tactic used by many fresh fish mungers to hide the tell tale smell of fish which has started to show signs of going off is to constantly pour sea water over it. Watch out for this trick. If you are not sure if you are smelling the actual fish or sea water, don’t buy the fish). Most importantly, keep all fish products in closed containers to avoid cross contamination with of by other food products in your fridge.

The same goes for eggs milk and cheese, if you distinguish any changes in color texture or smell, don’t take any risks, better to throw out and buy fresh. To lower the risk being sold spoiled or food which is about to spoil, buy only from supermarkets and stores which are very busy and have a high turnover of merchandise, particularly in the deli sections. Don’t be embarrassed to inspect what you buy, you are paying for fresh and healthy food and the decision to take what is on offer or not is entirely your own. The customer is always right. If you notice that the food you buy goes off quickly and you know that a). your fridge is clean and b). the temperature of the fridge is as it should be then take the food back to the store with your receipt and demand a refund or a fresh replacement. If the problem continues report your findings to your local authority for food hygiene.

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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You have all heard of the Salmonella food outbreaks and scares that pop up all around this country and in many other places around the world, but how many of you know that “Salmonella” is not a disease as such?  That would be called Salmonellosis.

 

Salmonella is a genus of Gram-negative, non-spore forming, and motile enterobacteria with flagella which protrude in all directions (peritrihous).  Salmonella gets it’s energy from oxidation and reduction reactions using organic sources.  Most species of Salmonella are facultative anaerobics and are found around the world in  many different locations both  in warm blooded and coldblooded animals alike, and, believe it or not, human beings.  Some of the diseases attributed to Salmonella include typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, and food borne Salmonellosis.

Samonella infections are all zoonotic.  They can be transmitted from humans to animals and from animals to humans.  Common strains are Salmonella Enterica Subsp., Enterica Serovar Typhi, or Salmonella Typhi.  Enteritis Salmonella can cause diarrhea, and infants, small children, the elderly, and people suffering from suppressed immune systems can become very seriously ill will need antibiotic treatment to rectify the problem.

There are an estimated forty thousand cases of Salmonella infections reported annually within the USA.  Salmonella can survive for weeks outside of a living organism.  Sunlight accelerates their death rate, as does being heated to a temperature of fifty five degrees for a period of one hour, or to sixty degrees for a period of not less than half an hour.  To guard against Salmonella food must be heated to at least seventy five degrees for a minimum of ten minutes.  Freezing does not kill salmonella .

Sources of Salmonella infections can be caused by injestion of unclean foodstuffs especially in institutional kitchens and restaurants, polluted surface water or stagnant water, improperly thawed poultry, or uncooked eggs from Salmonella infested birds.  Suspected foods contaminated by Salmonella outbreaks are taken off shop selves and returned to the manufacturer and should not be ingested.

The Salmonella in peanut butter found inside the products of the Peanut Corporation of America, has become one of the worst food borne Salmonella outbreaks in US food history and has been put down to criminal negligence.
Salmonellosis usually develops within twelve to seventy two hours after the person becomes infected with salmonella and Salmonella infections normally resolve in about seven days with oral liquid treatments.  Antibiotics such as ampricillin, ciproflaxacin, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazale are the best treatments for Salmonella infections which spreads to the intestines.  Some Salmonella patients have developed Reiter’s Syndrome which can lead to chronic arthritis and antibiotic treatments tend to have little effect on whether or not the patient develops arthritis from the Salmonella infection.

Beef, pork, milk, poultry, and eggs are the main host carriers of Salmonella, but any  type of food can become contaminated by this bacteria.  Eating raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat can be a good method of contracting a Salmonella infection, as can cross-contamination of foods.  Symptoms of Salmonella infections may include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramping.  Laboratory tests are required to determine the presence of Salmonella and its specific strain.

Milk pasteurization, farm animal hygiene, cleaner slaughterhouse regimes, cleaner vegetable and fruit harvesting and packing operations, and better educational training standards of food industry workers in basic food handling and restaurant safety inspection procedures, may all help prevent Salmonella outbreaks from happening.
US Government Departments, such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, monitor the frequency of Salmonella infections in the Country, and help local and State Health Departments investigate outbreaks and devise controls and measures to lessen cases from happening.

 

The Food and Drug Administration inspects imported foods, milk pasteurization plants, promotes better food preparation techniques in restaurants and processing plants, as well as regulates the wrongful use of certain types of antibiotics as food animal growth inducers.  The United States Department of Agriculture monitors the health of food animals, inspects egg manufacturing plants, and the quality of slaughtered and processed meats.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency regulates and monitors drinking water supplies for safety.

The following steps can be taken to help prevent outbreaks of Salmonellosis:  cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly at hot temperatures, avoid cooking oversized batches, do not eat or drink raw eggs or unpasteurized milk, wash hands after handling raw meat or poultry, and if foods in restaurants are served undercooked such as meat, eggs, and poultry send them back and have them cooked some more.
Salmonellosis is preventable by adopting correct food hygiene measures.

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Are you really sure that your favorite snacks are actually manufactured by the companies who’s names are on the wrapping?

Did you think that fake merchandise from the Far East only referred to wrist watches, CD’s, DVD’s and designer Labels?  If you have never thought about this question in depth, it may be time to do so. It has recently been discovered that many of the world’s favorite snacks are being fraudulently copied by various companies in the Far East.

World famous snacks are being produced to look and taste exactly the same as the original product.
Even “last sell my dates”, “dates of production”, company details and list of ingredients that must be printed by law on the wrapping of every product are carefully planned to coincide with the production details of the original companies’. Everything is planned right down to the last detail so as to elude the suspicions of government inspectors, retailers and consumers alike.

All of the companies that manufacture these fraudulent products are 100% sure that you the consumer will not be able to taste the difference between their fakes and the original product because they are identical in every way to the original.

Import companies all around the globe are tempted and lured by the prospect of lower prices and higher profit margins. Both the shops that sell the products and you the consumer are completely unaware of the conspiracy.  After all, you are getting a completely identical product in every way, right?

Wrong! In fact you are actually getting more than you paid for. The added ingredients come in the form of potentially dangerous  bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, listeria. These and other forms of microorganisms have been found in snacks that have been copied in the Far East. Tests to discover such activities have been carried  out by several government health authorities and by the quality control departments of the companies whose products have been copied and whose reputations have been damaged.

We also need to realize that international standards organizations such as ISO, GMP or HACCP will have nothing to do with companies that are faking the products of other reputable and responsible companies. This means that there is no control or information about how these products are produced. Hygiene standards are likely to be low and cleaning regimes may be waved.

Original manufacturers such as Nestle, Cadbury’s, Hershey’s and many other companies go to great length’s to ensure that you are buy a safe and hygienic product. They test all the ingredients that go into a product and they also test the all the parameters of the production of the final product. A large part of the cost of the product goes to cover the cost of quality control. With fake products, hygiene and quality may be the last thing on the mind of the manufacturer.

Reputable food companies now find that they now have to contend with this snack piracy on a continual basis. They are also finding that they, who had no part in the production of these imitation products, now have to continually check for fakes on shop shelves around the world and take responsibility for the correction of such infringes upon the reputation of their own company name.

In several countries, authorities were alerted to counterfeit snacks on the shelves of shops when complaints of food contamination were gathered from hospitals. After indentifying snacks as the cause importers were forced to recall all of the offending products and are now having to answer to legal allegations by national health and safety authorities. Several such companies now face loosing their import licenses, receiving hefty fines and being given periods of jail time.

Practices such as these are common in our day and age. Activities like these are responsible in part for the increase in the instances of food poisoning around the world.
Could this be the wake up call you have been waiting for regarding the quantity of snacks you eat?

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