Anyone who has ever had food poisoning will know what an unpleasant experience it can be. In some cases, it can even be downright dangerous – especially for vulnerable individuals such as infants and pregnant women. Here are a few facts around food poisoning that all food handlers – whether at home or in a restaurant – should be aware of.
1. Food poisoning occurs when harmful bugs get into food and multiply
Examples of these bugs include:
- Bacteria – such as salmonella, campylobacter, or E.coli.
- Viruses – for example norovirus, rotavirus, and Hepatitis A.
- Other – from toxins produced by certain pathogens, and from fungus (mould growth).
The most common occurrence of food poisoning is from bacteria (or their toxins).
Some examples of these include:
- Salmonella – illness occurs mostly from contaminated meat, seafood and eggs, and can take 48 hours to show up after ingestion.
- Staphylococci – this bug usually does not cause illness unless it gets into food and rapidly increases in numbers. The illness is caused by a toxin produced by the bug that is not killed in the cooking process. Symptoms can occur one to eight hours after ingestion.
- Campylobacter – undercooked chicken and contact with infected animals produce some of the highest risks for this bug.
2. Bugs in food can multiply extremely quickly
With the right conditions, pathogens can rapidly increase in numbers. These include warmth (37°C to 38°C is ideal), moisture, and a food source.
According to information from the Department of Health, if these conditions are met, bacteria can double in numbers every twenty minutes. This means if your food starts out with 100 bacteria, after two hours, this number may have increased to 6,400!
So taking chicken out of the freezer on a warm day and leaving it out several hours to thaw is potentially a very risky activity for food poisoning.
3. Food poisoning can occur through poor hygiene and food handling
This may include:
- Not following guidelines around temperature control for cooking, holding, and storing food.
- Leaving frozen food out to thaw in an unsafe manner.
- Food handlers touching their mouth or nose prior to handling food.
- Inadequate hand washing after visiting the toilet and / or before handling food.
- Sneezing or coughing near or over food.
- Cross-contamination between raw and cooked food.
- Eating food long past its use-by date.
- Failure to properly wash utensils between uses.
Higher risk foods include meat, poultry, eggs, smallgoods, seafood, cooked rice and pasta, prepared salads and unpasteurised dairy.
Infections can also be spread from contaminated surfaces. This can occur when an infected person doesn’t wash their hands properly and then touches benches or other surfaces, which are then touched by others.
4. Food poisoning can be prevented through strict food handling and high standards of hygiene
It’s extremely important to follow strict food handling procedures and hygiene controls in any food establishment. Professional commercial cleaning services can also help by ensuring that benches and other surfaces are properly cleaned and disinfected each day after use, reducing the risk of infections still further.
Get in touch with us for a quote for our restaurant and commercial kitchen cleaning services.