food safety FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions Food Safety FAQs

On this page we answer any Food Safety FAQS that we have come across over the years. Check out the answers below:

What Are Bacteria?

Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms which can exist either as an independent (in other words freely living organism) or as parasites (meaning they are dependent upon another organism for life).

Check out our article on bacteria

Where Do We Find Bacteria?

Bacteria live in water, soil, in plants and in animals. Bacteria are so prominent on earth that they also live in some of the most extreme environments, such as the deep ocean, hot springs and there is even evidence that bacteria lived on mars. Bacteria on a human-associated level grow in your gut, on your skin and in your hair including eye-lashes. 

Check out our article on bacteria

What Do Bacteria Need to Grow?

There are 6 elements in the environment that allow bacteria to grow and survive:

  1. Temperature
  2. Moisture (water activity)
  3. Nutrient content
  4. pH
  5. Oxygen
  6. Time

Check out our article on bacteria

What is Listeria & Listeriosis?

Listeria monocytogenes  is known as an opportunistic pathogen, meaning those that are already ill or have a low immune system are mostly likely to suffer from infection.

Listeria monocytogenes is a food-borne illness causing bacteria. The disease is known as Listeriosis. Listeria monocytogenesis often isolated in cattle, sheep, and fowl, and is also found in dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.

Check out our 5 articles on Listeria & Listeriosis for more:

  1. Listeria monocytogenes
  2. Listeriosis Outbreak
  3. Listeriosis Outbreak Update
  4. Listeriosis Recall South Africa
  5. Science Behind the Listeriosis Outbreak South Africa
What is Botulism?

Botulism is a paralysing disease affecting the body's nervous system that is caused by the ingestion of one of the potent neurotoxins produced by C. botulinum bacterium. This neurotoxin is among the most toxic substances known; even microscopic amounts can cause illness.

Check out our article on Clostridium & Botulism for more.

Why Shouldn't You Wash Raw Chicken Before Cooking

Infections in the kitchen can occur from a simple practice of washing chicken in a basin, during preparation and before cooking. Campylobacter is able to survive in the droplets of water from the wash basin, meaning that this bacterium presents concerns during washing and defrosting practices, so much so that the international food safety specialists insist that you do not wash/rinse your chicken before cooking.

Check out our article on Raw Chicken & Campylobacter

What Are Viruses?

A virus is micro-organism that is designed to infect its host. The primary purpose on this micro-organism  Is to ‘deliver’ its DNA / RNA into a host cell. Viruses are parasites (meaning they need another organism to survive) and are generally smaller than bacteria.

You can see bacteria under a normal microscope, and need an election microscope to be able to see viruses. Viruses are measured in nanometers (nm) and bacteria is micrometers (ūm). There are 1000 ūm in 1 millimetre (mm) and 1 million nm in 1 mm. The most common viruses we hear about daily are  HIV , Influenza & Ebola. As mentioned, the primary focus of a virus to replicate its DNA / RNA and can infect a variety of hosts in a few ways.   Get the full article here  
What Are Food Viruses?
There are 2 main viruses in food that are involved with food poisoning. Hepatitis A & Noroviruses. Although bacteria are the most common food poisoning organisms, viruses do play a role in food safety.  The foods that seem to be most responsible for viral infection are those with little to no processing. These include foods such as oysters, clams, mussels and scollops as well as fresh produce (salads and fruits).

Hepatitis A 

  The hepatitis A virus is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that affect your liver’s ability to function. Hep A infections occur from consuming contaminated food or water, exactly the same way as bacteria.  The main difference is, that the virus is contagious and you can get infected by having close contact with another person that is infected.

Noroviruses

  Noroviruses are the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis. This is more commonly know as the stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis. Noroviruses are also spread by consuming food and water that is contaminated. Noroviruses are highly contagious and anyone can get infected like flu.   
What Is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning can be defined as an illness caused by consuming food or drink that has been contaminated causing nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea.

 Food-borne illness can be mild ranging from a runny tummyor stomach cramps to severe dehydration causing hospitalisation. Exposure to toxins from bacteria can even cause death.

Check our our article on Food Poisoning

How Common Is Food Poisoning?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that 1 in 10 people worldwide, fall sick from food poisoning. Within that 10%, 420 000 people worldwide incur severe infections or complications from food poisoning and die from food poisoning each year.

In 2007 The Food Standards Agency (FSA) estimates that there are around 850,000 cases of food poisoning each year in the UK. The FSA estimates that there are 500 deaths from food poisoning in the UK every year.

Food borne illness, better known as the dreaded food poisoning, causes almost 50 million illnesses and 3,000 deaths annually in the United States.

Check our our article on Food Poisoning

Who Is Most At Risk Of Getting Food Poisoning?

Small children/babies are incredibly prone to food poisoning, pregnant moms, the elderly and those that are immunocompromised, especially HIV infections and cancer patients. This is because each person in these categories do in one way or another have lower immune systems than the general population.

Check our our article on Food Poisoning

What Are The Legal Implications Of Food Poisoning?

In most countries, the consumer laws, protect the customer, meaning a restaurant or production facility must prove that it was not negligent in causing food poisoning.

Check out our article on 6 Ways Food Poisoning Could Leave You Needing a Lawyer

How Does Food Get Contaminated?

It takes several steps to get food from farm to fork. We call these steps, "The food production chain. Contamination can occur at any point along this chain during production, processing, distribution and preparation.

Check out our article on How Does Food Get Contaminated? Things you should know

Does The Microwave Kill Bacteria?

Microwave ovens are great time-savers and can help you in a bind. These days microwave ovens can cook, grill, defrost and reheat any foods. These features can really help when grills or convection ovens take time to reheat foods. Microwaves can be very effective in the reheating processif used correctly.

Here's the deal, microwaves don’t actually kill bacteria.

The microwaves instead create heat that is able to kill bacteria in foods. But microwaved foods can cook unevenly because of irregular shapes or differences in thickness. Think about a solid frozen meal compared to reheating a soup. Even turntable-equipped microwave ovens can cook unevenly and leave cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive.

Check out our article on microwave food safety

What Is Food Safety / Food Hygiene?

Food Safety is defined as handling, preparing and storing food in a way that reduces the risk of individuals becoming sick from foodborne illnesses.These risks include contamination from biological, physical or chemical sources.

Food safety systems or food hygiene programs are designed to minimise these risks.

Check out our article on food safety

What Are The Food Safety Pillars?

The food safety pillars is a system designed to actively manage food safety risk and therefore reduce the chance of causing food poisoning. These are the basic principles taken from understanding all the factors that allow bacteria to grow. 

  • The first pillar is cleaning and sanitising.
    • Physical cleaning and sanitising to remove germs and bacteria.
  • The second pillar is personal hygiene,
    • Regular hand washing as well as maintaining personal cleanliness and that of appropriate uniforms.
  • The third pillar is food storage 
    • Storing raw and ready-to-eat foods separately from each other.
  • The fourth pillar is temperature control.
    • Keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • The fifth pillar is food handling
    • Includes the principles of cooling, reheating and defrosting practices.
Should You Be Using A Dishwasher In The Kitchen?
The dishwasher in the kitchen can be a very efficient machine to us in the commercial kitchen. Crockery, glasses and cutlery can be washed in the wash and rinse basins by hand. Yet, there are definite benefits to using a machine for this purpose, rather that washing all equipment together. 
Should You Use Gloves In The Kitchen?
The trend in the industry has been to encourage the use of gloves in the kitchen for handling of ready to eat foods. This is in effort to prevent potential cross-contamination during handling. We at Hygiene Food Safety believe that gloves can be useful. But should have limited use. The major reason for the use of gloves is public perception. The customer seems to feel more at ease when gloves are used, rather than the other way around. A study conducted showed that 85% of customers who observe gloved workers felt that this was more hygienic. Check out the article on using a glove policy for more
How Should You Store Raw & Ready-to-eat Foods In The Fridge

Food storage in the fridge is one of the most important principles in food safety. Perishable foods by its very nature does not last as long as we would like. This is why we need to keep foods in the fridge. To prolong the time it takes for food to go off.

But keeping foods in the fridge is not just about temperature and keeping to the cold chain. It is also about storing foods in a way that prevents contamination and food poisoning. One of the biggest problems in the kitchen is storage space in fridges. The fridge is probably one of the most cramped spaces you’ll find. Everything from ready to eat meals, raw meats and veg to dairy and sauces all need to be stored in a fridge to ensure that foods do not expire before the use by date.

Check out our article on safe fridge storage

When And What Rules To Follow When Freezing Foods
The freezing of foods whether raw or cooked is designed to prolong the shelf-life of these products so that they may be used at a later stage. However, this prolonging of shelf-life is limited and needs to be handled in a controlled way.  For instance, temperature control and handling of foods cannot be ignored just because we are going to freeze foods afterward. Although the freezing process limits and stops the growth of bacteria. It does not always kill all germs. This is particularly true for bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes.
What Are The Hygiene Risks In The Bar?

The bar handles dairy in the form of milk and cream. Water in the form of ice, and the bar is also popular for cocktails.

In itself the mix that goes into making cocktails has a high sugar content and obviously alcohol. These, through the manufacturing process are not high risk items and very rarely show bacterial contamination.

The bar gets sticky and dirty surprisingly quickly and easily transfers to the hands of staff. So although staff in the bar are not dealing with high bacterial load foods such as raw meats, they are exposed to the regular risks of personal hygiene.

Check out our article on the hygiene risks in the bar

How Dangerous Are Prepared Sandwiches?
We always tend to think that sandwiches are low risk and can be leftout for as long as is needed. Unfortunately, sandwiches are much more riskier than we thinkthey are. There is a microbiological risk in sandwich making that affects sandwich food safety.
 
In reality, it is the sandwich fillings that create the risk. Sandwich fillings are perishable, uncooked products that usually undergo no heating or sanitising. And are made by hand throughout the production process.
check out our article on Sandwich Food Safety 
Can You Eat Food Past The Best Before Date?

The best before date, is usually a measure of quality, meaning taste, texture, aroma and appearance. Specifically for foods that do not support the growth of bacteria and other micro-organisms. This means that the product being consumed has a measure of when the best quality of the product would be. Such an example would be ice-cream, butter and breads. These also include tinned and dried products.

The use by dates are significantly different. This date is a measure of suitability for human consumption, and is measured on a scientific basis. These dates would be present in foods that  support the growth of bacteria, and include all fresh and ready to eat foods.

There are a number of factors that can determine both dates, including the addition of preservatives, pH, salt content etc. These are the conditions that support or prevent the growth of bacteria.

Check out our article on best before dates

Why Is The Delivery Practice In The Kitchen Important?

The receiving procedure for kitchen is one of the first steps in the food safety system. This procedure is designed to ensure that all goods received into the kitchen is of the best quality possible. And be safe for consumption. And is received in a way that prevents cross contamination.

Maintaining the cold chain is an important part of food safety. The receiving procedure is the primary principle in ensure the cold chain is kept.

Check out our article on receiving procedures

Do You Really Need Curtains In The Cold Room?
There are clear benefits for using curtains in the cold room and freezer room. Yet, there are still many kitchens that do not see how the use of air / plastic curtains can save on energy cost, maintenance and maintaining proper temperature for both the cold and freezer rooms.  Check out our article on curtains in the cold room 
Why You Need An Extraction System In The Kitchen
An extraction system in the kitchen is required by all commercial kitchens. An extraction canopy consists of an engineered system of exhaust hoods, make-up air ventilators, grease removal apparatuses, ducting, fans etc.   Cooking in the kitchen produces heat, grease and smoke. As well as the potential for toxic gases produced from the cooking equipment. 

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