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 Causes of Foodborne Illness and their Control Measures

Causes of Foodborne Illness and their Control Measures

1. Physical hazards

These hazards are foreign objects such as (metal, wood, glass, plastic, hair, dirt, etc.).

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Control measures of physical hazards:

  • Put and maintain protective shields or covers on lights over food storage and preparation areas.
  • Remove staples, nails and other objects from boxes and crates when food is received so they do not fall into the food.
  • Do not use glasses to scoop ice. Use only commercial, food-grade plastic or metal scoops with handles.
  • Do not chill glasses or any food items in ice that will be used in drinks.
  • Do not store toothpicks or non-edible garnishes on shelves above food storage or preparation areas. 

2. Chemical hazards

Chemicals that are added on purpose like (salt, spices and coloring), or by accident like (detergents, pesticides, etc.).

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Control measures of Chemical hazards:

  • For safety, chemicals should be stored in their original containers.
  • Proper storage and instructions must be followed when dealing with chemicals to make sure that food is kept safe.
  • As an example, some cleansers have to be rinsed off a counter before the counter can be used to prepare food. 
  • Never store chemicals with food or cleaning cloths used with chemicals on food preparation surfaces.

3. Microbiological hazards

Example: (bacteria, viruses, molds and parasites).

  • Bacteria are single-celled living micro-organisms. The most common form of food poisoning is bacterial food poisoning.
  • Bacteria will multiply by dividing under the following conditions:
            - Food (protein/carbohydrates)
            - Acidity
            - Time
            - Temperature
            - Oxygen
            - Moisture

Control measures of Microbiological hazards:

  • Personal hygiene:
Personal hygiene of the food handlers in food facilities is just as important as kitchen hygiene. Food handlers are expected to follow proper personal cleanliness during all the stages of food preparations such as receiving, storing, cooking, processing, packaging, transporting or disposing food.
Following are the basic tips that are followed:
       - Avoid brushing or combing hair near food.
       - Avoid touching face, hair, mouth, skin and other body parts.
       - Avoid smoking in food areas.
       - Washing the hands as frequently as possible.
       - Not handling the food with bare hands, except when using gloves.
       - Avoid coughing, sneezing, and spitting near food.
       - Avoid chewing or eating in food preparation areas.
       - Avoid sampling food using fingers, and always prefer a clean spoon.
  • Kitchen hygiene:
Kitchen hygiene is one of the important step to help control the spread of harmful germs. There are many surfaces in the kitchen where harmful bacteria and microorganisms can live, grow and multiply. Therefore, the following measures are important to improve kitchen hygiene:
       - Kitchen surfaces must be cleaned after food has been prepared.
       - Kitchen floors should not have any accumulation of grease, dirt, food waste, or  any other visible waste. 
       - Kitchen floors must be cleaned with detergents after every shift, and for better removal of grease hot water or steam is preferred. 
       - Cleaning difficult to reach areas like between floor and wall junctions and keeping them in good repair to prevent home for insects. 
       - Maintaining the floor surfaces to keep in good condition, free of cracks or any other defects.
  • Temperature Control:
Temperature plays a vital role in multiplying harmful bacteria in foods if left out at room temperature. The range of temperature between 5ºC and 60ºC is called 'danger zone' as the bacteria multiplies quickly within this range. To control the bacteria growth rate in food, it should be either kept chilled or kept hot (i.e. out of the danger zone).
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  • Refrigeration:
       - Store the potentially hazardous food in refrigerator immediately after delivery.
       - Leftover food should also be placed in refrigerator as soon as possible.
       - Items like raw meat and poultry must be stored in separate refrigerator or at the bottom section of refrigerator to avoid spill onto other food.
       - Keeping the food always covered with a clean lid or food wrap.
       - Rotate the stock using first in First out (FIFO).
       - Avoid overloading of refrigerator. 
       - Ideal temperature for refrigerator is at or below 4ºC.
       - Ideal temperature for freezer is below -18ºC.
       - Defrosting of food must be done in refrigerator.
       - Keeping the refrigerator and freezer clean.
       - Recording temperatures daily in log-sheet.
  • Cooking, cooling, reheating and hot holding:
       - Cooking food until its core temperature reaches to a minimum of 75ºC.
       - Food for storage must be cooled and refrigerated within one hour of cooking. 
       -  Food for service must be held in hot-holing with the pre-heated temperature above 60ºC. If 60ºC cannot be maintained, either re-heat the food within 2 hours                      or dispose it.
       - Reheating food until core temperature reaches 75ºC. Reheating is done only once.
       - It is advisable to use thermometers or temperature probe to conduct temperature checks for cooked food.
       - Recording these temperatures in the log sheet.
  • Avoiding cross contamination:
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Prevention of cross contamination includes:

  • Good personal hygiene must be followed by the kitchen staff. 
  • Avoid using chefs’ cloths for hands wiping of dish holding.
  • Washing hands immediately after handling raw food and before holding food and clean equipment.
Separate raw, cooked and defrosting foods:
  • Storing raw and cooked or ready-to-eat foods in separate refrigerators, at least at the bottom of a shared refrigerator
  • Storing raw meat and raw vegetables separately. 
  • Frozen raw food must be thawed, by storing it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator in a tray to catch any 'drip' while thawing. 
  • Even while cooling the cooked food, it should be kept separate from raw foods.
Storing food:
  • Storing food containers above the floor to avoid them catching up dirt from surfaces.
Separating food-handling equipment:
  • Designated utensils should be used for the handling of raw food and separate utensils for cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
  • Reduce the handling of ready-to-eat food. This may be achieved in various ways such as the use of dedicated tongs and serving spoons. This will assist in reducing the risk of cross contamination.
  • Use separate cloths for cleaning raw areas and ready-to-eat areas to avoid transport bacteria around your premises.