Food Handling

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Did you ever think that preparing or handling food requires specific health and safety measures? Can you imagine the consequences of poisoning your customers, even if it is unintentional?

Food poisoning is defined as becoming ill from eating contaminated food. The contamination can come from bacteria, viruses, parasites, mold, and toxins.

Types of Bacteria & Viruses

Salmonella:

A common bacteria causing food poisoning. Sources of salmonella are eggs, poultry, cheese, contaminated fresh vegetables and fruits, and unpasteurized milk.

E. coli:

A bacterium that is naturally found in our intestines. Most types of E. coli are harmless, but some, e.g. E. coli 0157:H7, can cause bloody diarrhea, kidney failure, and death. It is found in undercooked meet products, unpasteurized milk and juices, some cheeses, untreated water, and contaminated fruits and vegetables.

Listeria:

A bacterium found in soil and water. Therefore it can be in a variety of raw foods as well as in unpasteurized milk.

Hepatitis:

A virus that can damage the liver. There are vaccines available for some types of hepatitis but not all. It is spread via contaminated stools from an infected person.

Norwalk virus:

This virus can cause the stomach flu. It is very contagious and is found in contaminated food or drinks. It is a group of viruses that can live on surfaces or be spread through contact with an infected person.

Symptoms:

Nausea, vomiting, diarhhea, abdominal pain, fever, sore muscles, headache, dark urine, kidney failure, and sometimes death.

Parasites

Parasites are organisms that feed from other living organisms. Many parasites can be transmitted by water, soil, or person-to-person contact. Some parasites are microscopic while some, like parasitic worms, are visible to the naked eye. Some parasites do not cause any harm while others can eventually cause death. Some examples include; protozoa, roundworms, and tapeworms.

Molds and Toxins

Some cases of food poisoning can caused natural toxins (mushrooms and pufferfish) or chemical toxins (pesticides and melamine). Some molds, such as that in some cheeses, are desirable and do not cause harm, others can produce toxins that cause illness.

Safety Precautions

  • Wash hands regularly, especially after using the bathroom or handling other objects.
  • Wear gloves, but still wash hands. Do not touch non-food items when wearing gloves as this contaminates the gloves and undermines the intention.
  • Clean counter surfaces regularly. Do this before preparing food, and after finishing with one type of food before starting with another. E.g. after cutting meat clean the counter and use clean utensils before cutting a salad. By not using clean utensils, if there was something on the utensil that you used to cut the meat it will now be transferred into the salad – which is not cooked.
  • Keep food in the refrigerator or freezer. Always follow manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Know the expiration dates on food. But realize that this changes if the package is opened, left on the counter, if the food is cooked, etc. In a warmer climate the expiration time may be reduced.
  • Keep animals away from food preparation areas.
  • Monitor infestations and take measure to reduce.
  • If you think food has gone bad, or has been contaminated, do not use. Discard immediately. It is not worth the risk.
  • Cook food to proper temparature. This is important to kill any lingering bactaria, viruses, parasites, etc. for most meats the minimum cooking temperature is 170 degrees Fahrenheit / 75 degrees Celcius. This means that the internal temperature of the food you are cooking must reach 170F / 75C.
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