The common belief that foodborne illnesses begin in the kitchens may be right to some extent. Yet, at the same time, foodborne illnesses can begin even before the food production stage. In other words, food contamination can happen long before it reaches the kitchen. Food gets contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, and chemicals. Bacteria and viruses are present in raw meat, seafood, and poultry products. Whereas, certain food compositions can trigger allergic reactions. Storing food at wrong temperatures or not following hygiene practices can also lead to food contamination. Preventing foodborne illnesses should be your top priority.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
Most foodborne illnesses have mild symptoms, and one can get cured in a short span of time. Common symptoms of foodborne illnesses are diarrhea, nausea, fever, and stomach cramps. These symptoms subside as the body gets rid of bacteria and germs. In case of severe symptoms, one may need to seek medical attention. So how to prevent foodborne illness and protect the family and consumers. Let’s take a closer look at how to optimize food safety:
Ways to Optimize Food Safety
Get food products from authorized suppliers that handle food safety norms and parameters. Always check for the cleanliness of the storage area and the food products. Check for the freshness, and food should not have any bad smells.
Avoid purchasing the packaged foods that have dents in their cartons or cans. Never pick the jars with cracks and loose lids. Dents can make room for bacteria to seep into the food, thereby making it unsafe to consume. Any loose jar lid indicates that the container has lost vacuum and the product is contaminated. Never buy any tampered packaged or processed food even if there are discounts on it. Never consume any such food even if it looks fine to consume. Such food items might have got contaminated and can result in food poisoning. The bacteria might be present in a minute form that is not visible to the eyes.
Food labels provide information on its ingredients, cooking, and storage instructions. It also provides dates for which food is safe to consume. So, before buying the products, always read the labels. Buy only those items with allergen-free ingredients. Check the dates and consume the foods before the specified “use by” and “Best before” dates end. Eating past this date puts your health at risk. Consuming foods after the specified dates can lead to foodborne illness.
Frozen Foods, Meats & Poultry
While buying frozen products, ensure the packets are well-sealed and not crushed on the edges. Check for the freshness of eggs, ensure eggshells are free of cracks, and have no foul smells. Ensure that you place meat and fish products in separate bags. This will prevent the drippings from contaminating other food items. When buying ingredients, pick frozen and perishable items in the end. If possible, have an icebox in your vehicle to carry frozen foods. Accept frozen foods from suppliers only when they take them out of the freezer. Warm temperatures are perfect for bacteria to multiply, and it results in contamination.
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Food safety in the kitchen
Once in the kitchen, follow the following safety norms to prevent foodborne illnesses.
Clean Hands & Kitchen Surfaces/Equipment
Prevent bacteria spread by washing hands at frequent intervals with soap and water. Ensure to wash utensils, chopping boards, and knives before and after food preparation. To avoid contamination, wash hands between the handling of foods like meat and fish. Keep separate knives, chopping boards for meats and fish to avoid cross-contamination. Always wash utensils, countertops, chopping boards with antibacterial cleaning agents before closing the restaurant.
Separate Food Products
Microbes get transferred from one food to another. Keep raw meat, seafood, eggs away from other food to avoid cross-contamination. Store meat, poultry, and seafood in separate bags to prevent their juices from mixing into other foods. Store eggs in their original carton. Keep an individual set of knives, chopping boards for fruits and vegetables.
Maintain storage and cooking temperatures to kill bacteria and prevent foodborne diseases. Use a thermometer to check the temperature of meats, poultry, etc., is even and safe. Food storage temperatures in refrigerators should be 40ºF to prevent bacteria spread. Refrigerate meats, poultry products, fish and defrost them before cooking them. Do not store cooked foods for a long duration.
Following the food safety tips and tricks right from the point of you buy the food product till kitchen. Cleanliness is the key to prevent foodborne diseases. While preparing food, ensure to follow food safety norms to keep food safe to consume. Undertaking the necessary training and becoming the holder of a food safety handlers card is an indication of you having all the knowledge and being qualified to handle food professionally.
What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. While this adage may be motivating millions of people globally to take up challenges that hold them back, those working in the food industry have a different variation of it. – What makes your customers sick can attract a heavy lawsuit.
When it comes to serving food professionally, your customers trust you and the establishment to handle it correctly. They assume that the food served to them is tasty, made fresh, contains no allergic elements, and more importantly, free from any disease-causing microbes. To live up to this expectation, it is important for anyone handling food professionally to be well-acquainted and well-equipped with the knowledge of different aspects of food preparation, serving, and storing food items.
This is one of the many reasons why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published the Food Code, a model set of guidelines and procedures on the basis of which food control jurisdictions can regulate restaurants, grocery stores, and institutional foodservice providers in the U.S.A.
As per the Food Code, it is important for employees to hold valid food handlers permit. In Utah specifically, it is mandatory for anyone working in an establishment dealing with food to hold valid food handlers permit issued on behalf of the Health Department of Utah. Failure to show one during an inspection can attract heavy fines on the individual, yield a low sanitation score, and possibly lead to closing down the establishment.
Importance of Food handlers permit
You may be wondering how a piece of paper can hold such importance in the food industry? The reason is as follows – To receive a food handlers card, the applicant needs to undergo training that explains the different aspects of food management at different stages. This means anyone coming in direct contact with the food in any of the following stages needs to have undergone the training:
- Production – Harvesting the food from farms or from slaughter
- Processing – Creating batches of raw food items for distribution
- Distribution – Farmer’s Market or Grocery Stores
- Storage & Transportation – Deep freeze operators
- Preparation – Restaurants or any other establishment serving food
- Serving – Waiters and bartenders
Owing to the severity of the consequences of improper food handling on the mass, selected public and private organizations are allowed to conduct the training.
The food handlers training imparts sufficient knowledge in the different aspects of food handling such as:
- Food Safety – The different ways any food can be contaminated and the preventive measures for the same
- Food Handlers Hygiene – The different practices for maintaining hygiene of the handler as well as the establishment
- Food temperature and ‘Danger Zone’ – Most pathogens and microbes can survive and multiply in a specific temperature range called ‘Danger Zone’. Learn the best practices while cooking food as well as storing any leftovers to avoid the Danger Zone.
- Different food related allergies
- Common food-borne diseases and sources of the pathogens
Since the world is progressing very quickly, new and improved methods for food handling are discovered. So, most states provide a limited validity of 3 years on every food handlers permit. Post expiration, the holder has to again undergo the training to be eligible for the permit.
The food handlers permit is a certification course wherein an individual has to undergo an exam that tests their knowledge on the basis of the topics covered in the training. Only on clearing the exam with a 75% or more score, an individual is issued food handlers permit.
What if I fail the Food Handlers Permit Test
To err is to be human. Mistakes happen and you may not pass the exam in the first try after completing the training. While many may consider it as the end of the road, it is just a temporary setback. Most training organizations such as Easy Food Handlers have similar rules regarding retaking the exam. The individual can attempt up to three times within a span of 30 days from the training completion to score more than 75% on the test.
Unfortunately, if the individual doesn’t clear the test within three attempts, they need to undergo training after which they can again sit for the test.
What if I pass the Food Handlers Permit Test
Once the individual has scored more than 75% on the 45 question test. It is an indication that they are qualified to handle food professionally based on the knowledge from the training. They can immediately print a temporary food handlers permit and start working. The institution conducting the training and test will notify the local department of health. In the area where the individual is going to work. After 30 days from passing the test, a permanent food handlers permit is sent via mail to the individual. Depending on the validity of the permit, the individual has to again undergo training when the existing permit expires.
When running a food business, food safety is critical. Since the customer trusts you with their food, it is important to uphold that trust by being capable and also hiring capable individuals. Food handlers permit is an indication of capability and is recognized everywhere. By sparing 120 mins to undergo the training and an hour for the test, you can easily become a food handler in a span of one week.
Officials are investigating an outbreak of Hepatitis A https://www.fda.gov/food/foodborne-pathogens/bad-bug-book-second-edition
in Sweden related to dates from Iran that are suspected to be the source of the infections.
The Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten), https://www.folkhalsomyndigheten.se/the-public-health-agency-of-sweden/
and National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket), https://www.livsmedelsverket.se/en
the relevant infectious disease units and municipalities are investigating to identify the source of infections.
Officials from Folkhälsomyndigheten and Livsmedelsverket told Food Safety News https://www.foodsafetynews.com
that hepatitis A cases are reported to the national database. At that point the suspected source of infection is often unknown.
“We observed an increase of domestically acquired hepatitis A virus infections with genotype IIIA strains, a genotype which we usually associate with travel-related cases in Sweden,” they said.
Since the end of February, nine cases of the viral infection have been linked to the outbreak, with the last one reported on April 16. Eight of the patients are confirmed and have the same type of hepatitis A infections from the genotype IIIA, which is also known as 3A. The ninth patient’s infection is suspected to be the same.
Patients are between the ages of 28 and 73. Five are men and four are women. They are from seven counties: Örebro, Stockholm, Uppsala, Skåne, Södermanland, Kalmar, and Halland.
The investigation has not yet identified one brand of dates or a joint producer.
“The cases (patients) reported consumption of dates https://www.foodsafetynews.com/tag/hepatitis-a-outbreak/
of different brands from different suppliers on the Swedish market but all dates are from Iran. Cases have bought dates from different supermarkets. The regional departments of communicable disease control are interviewing the cases. The dates have a long shelf life so it´s still too early to say that the outbreak is over.”
Outbreak in Denmark last year
In eight confirmed outbreak patients in 2018, four different strains from genotype IIIA were detected. Two of the Swedish patients have similar virus strains to those found in an outbreak in Denmark in 2018 linked to dates from Iran.
In the Danish outbreak, 27 people fell ill from December 2017 to February 2018, with 22 admitted to hospitals. Dates from Iran were imported by RM Import A/S and sold in Rema1000. Norway also reported one case as part of the outbreak.
In the 2018 outbreak, several variants of genotype IIIA strains were detected in patients. One of the outbreak strains was also detected in dates.
Recommended: How Do I Renew My Food Handlers Permit?
Folkhälsomyndigheten and Livsmedelsverket reported there are no ISO methods for detection of Hepatitis A on dates.
“The National Food Agency has used a similar method as Denmark used last year when they were able to detect hepatitis A virus in dates. After steps of elution with wash buffer and concentration of the virus, molecular analyses with PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is used to detect the virus. So far no viruses have been found in the different samples of dates but further analyses are ongoing,” according to agency officials.
Representatives from the agencies confirmed they had shared information on the outbreak strains with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, but no other countries had seen them so far this year.
Additional consumer information on hepatitis A https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/outbreaks/hepatitisaoutbreaks.htm
Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can cause mild to severe illness, including liver failure. It can take up to 50 days for symptoms to appear. Some infected people don’t develop symptoms at all, but they are contagious and can easily contaminate foods and beverages they prepare or otherwise handle.
The hepatitis A virus (HAV) can also be transmitted through direct contact with an infectious person.
The incubation period is usually 14 to 28 days. Symptoms include fever, malaise, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark-colored urine, and jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Recovery following infection may be slow and take several weeks or months. For more contact food handlers permit process.