Personal hygiene Food

Find Out If Your Domestic or Workplace Kitchen Hygiene Is Breeding Bacteria

August 14th, 2016

This article, which is supported by two other articles about E.coli, is primarily aimed at people who are engaged in working in food preparation areas, either at home or at work. You will learn, as you progress through this article, it is imperative that the highest standards of hygiene are maintained whilst preparing food in any environment so as to minimise health risked for the consumers.

The focus should of course not just be within the home or workplace, but in any location were food is being prepared, including church halls and bar-b-ques. The problem is you cannot see, taste or smell the bacteria. If personal and food preparation areas and transportation facilities are not maintained to the highest standards, the bacteria can have a serious detrimental effect on to the people who will consume it. Of course if this occurs within business premises, the effects could be serious for either your staff or your customers or maybe both.

Pathogenic Bacteria in the Kitchen
One good example of the serious bacteria is Escherichia coli otherwise known as E. coli. This bacterium produces Vitamin K which helps the body break down and digest food and normally lives both inside your intestines and in the intestines of animals. In most circumstances, the E. coli bacteria are a normal, often beneficial, element of the human intestinal flora and, being confined to the intestines, cause no harm to the individual. Unfortunately, certain mutant strains of the bacteria (E. coli 0157) can travel from the intestines into the blood where they can cause a serious infection.

A Recent Outbreak of E. coli in the UK
A recent E. coli outbreak in the UK saw sufferers infected over an eight month period. Although the key source of contamination was not found, strong links were made with the way in which leeks and potatoes had been handled. There were a number of occasions where people may have caught the infection from either cross-contamination in storage, where vegetables had not been washed, hands were not properly washed after handling the vegetables or even by not cleaning equipment after the vegetables had been prepared. In this instance, 250 people were affected and almost half were under 16 years of age. With most food-borne illnesses, the young and the old are particularly vulnerable, but this study highlighted the number of points in the chain when contamination can occur.

A Case of E. coli Associated With Salad Consumption
In May 2011 the E. Coli 0157 bacteria was ingested by 80 people in Germany and hundreds of others were infected with a high percentage of these being women. It was believed at the time that contaminated salad may have been the cause of the harmful bacteria. However, that’s no reason for you to stop eating your greens!

E. coli is Extremely Virulent
E. coli 0157 has got to be one of the most effective ‘baddies’ out there because you don’t need to ingest many of the individual organisms to become ill. Just 10 individual organisms could have a nasty effect on a human whereas you’d need to ingest over 1000 Salmonella organisms to have the same effect.

Good Food Hygiene Prevents E. coli Food Poisoning
So it isn’t down to the food itself. You could eat something which is hideously inedible providing it had been farmed, prepared and served in a safe way. E. coli 0157 is a truly nasty organism indeed, but awareness takes away the scariness. Following rules of good food hygiene means that the useful side of E coli can keep itself busy helping our bodies produce Vitamin K rather than causing incapacitating illness.

In future articles we’ll explain in greater detail how E. coli contamination is caused and how simple food hygiene systems can be put in place.

Personal Hygiene – Safeguard Or Unhealthy Obsession?

August 14th, 2016

The end of this week marks the anniversary of a lecture which has revolutionized our lives. This seminal address, given by Louis Pasteur on the 19th February 1878, was on the germ theory of disease. From that moment onward the world knew that putrefaction and disease was caused, not by the action of poisonous gases or ‘miasmas’ as previously thought, but through the work of microscopic bacteria. That discovery marked a watershed in health care, triggering a constantly growing quest to create germ free living environments. Pasteur is most commonly honoured today as the inventor of the pasteurization process, and the creator of the first effective anti-rabies vaccine, but his main contribution lay in the prevention of post-operative sickness and mortality. He taught doctors to wash their hands and sterilise their equipment before carrying out surgical operations. Prior to his revelation doctors would wear a clean white coat in their consulting rooms while they examined their wealthy patients. When the coat got a trifle grubby they’d wear it while lecturing to their students. Then, before it was finally laundered, they wore it when they were carrying out operations, which was the messiest job they had to do. After Pasteur, they scrubbed up, wore masks, and donned sterile gloves and overalls, a simple sanitary precaution which continues to save countless lives every year.

But even the wisest hygienic measures can be overdone. In Tudor England Queen Elizabeth I set her subjects the example of taking a bath once a month ‘whether she need it or no.’ Now, the daily bath or shower has become the rule rather than the exception. Cleanliness has become a cultural obsession. Once judged to be second only to godliness, it’s now moved into pole position. Everyday we’re bombarded with advertisements for products which are guaranteed ‘to kill all known germs.’ This is a startling claim, because there are thought to be a billion different bacterial species, some of which are vital for our health. Recent research suggests that it’s good for children to go outdoors and get mucky, a theory known as the ‘hygiene hypothesis.’

Our immune system has evolved over thousands of years to help us survive in a germ-laden world. Work carried out recently at the University of California shows that the presence of bacteria on the skin helps the healing of skin wounds, by damping down overactive immune responses. This reduces the likelihood of allergic diseases and eczematous rashes, which are rare in third world countries, but tend to occur with increasing frequency in the West when children are brought up in excessively sterile environments. Dosed with antibiotics, and encouraged to wash their skin with antibiotic soaps, these squeaky clean kids have less chance to stimulate and strengthen their immune systems, which may increase their risk of chronic disease in later life.

A research project, carried out under the direction of Professor Tom McDade, at the Northwestern University, Illinois, made a detailed study of the health records of 1,534 children born in the Philippines, a country with relatively poor sanitary standards. The results revealed that the more pathogens the youngsters encountered in their infancy, the less likely they were to develop chronic inflammatory diseases in later life. This could well mean a lessened risk of suffering diabetes, strokes and cardiovascular disease. Tom McDade concedes that more research is needed, but plans himself to take a far more relaxed attitude with his children. ‘If my two-year-old drops food on the floor, I just let him pick it up and eat it.’

Far too many people today develop an unwholesome fetish about cleanliness. Some even develop a phobia, known technically as verminophobia, which hampers their life and harms their health. This was the tragic fate of the movie mogul Howard Hughes, who finished up a self-imposed prisoner in a single hotel room, so fearful of contamination that he wouldn’t touch anything for fear of catching germs. Far better to adopt the carefree attitude of country folk who believe: ‘You’ve got to eat a peck of dirt before you die.’ And that’s a whole heap lot of germ-laden muck, for a peck is not a tiny pinch, but an official volumetric measure which is sufficient to fill an entire bucket.