2. Food Hygiene
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is a «complete state of physical, mental and social well-being, and not just the absence of physical discomfort or illness «.
So what is food hygiene? It is the group of measures needed to ensure food safety from»farm to table«, that is, from the moment they are obtained until they reach the final consumer.
Therefore, we define food-borne disease as any disease caused by consuming contaminated food.
It is important to maintain good food hygiene, as it will lead not only to a safer handling of food, but also to a good reputation for the company, increased customer satisfaction, and we will also avoid possible penalties from health authorities.
What is food hygiene?
Food hygiene is all the measures that must be undertaken in order to ensure the safety of food at all stages of the production chain in the food industry.
Proper food hygiene and handling is essential to avoid different illnesses and alterations in food (from the moment of production or harvesting to the consumption of food, as it is exposed to contamination by microorganisms or other substances harmful to health.
Most common bacteria in food
The bacteria and viruses that most commonly contaminate the food we eat are:
It is one of the most common causes of food poisoning. It is found in eggs, raw poultry, beef, and sometimes unwashed fruits and vegetables.
It is found in the digestive system in animals and humans. In food it is found in raw or undercooked beef, contaminated water, raw milk and fresh products.
It is found in ready-to-eat cold meats, refrigerated meat-based pâtés, raw dairy products, refrigerated smoked seafood or raw sprouts.
It is found in raw or undercooked poultry meat, unpasteurized milk, or contaminated or untreated water.
It is found in foods rich in cooked proteins (cooked ham, poultry meat), dairy products, salads and pastry products (especially those made with pastry creams).
It is found in dairy products, beef and chicken, raw fruits and vegetables, raw oysters, and contaminated or untreated water.
Beef, fish, raw seafood, dairy products, contaminated or non-potable water and in fresh products.
Recommended food temperatures
With regards to food hygiene and safety, temperature is one of the most important factors to take into account when it comes to food preservation. Temperature acts as a barrier to prevent the proliferation of microorganisms, so the correct control of the temperature of food, both in the refrigeration and cooking process is a key element to prevent the emergence and development of pathogenic bacteria.
Fresh food should be cooled to a temperature of 4-7°C, which prevents the growth of pathogenic microorganisms. The lower the temperature, the slower the proliferation of microorganisms, so freezing at -18ºC is the safest, because although it does not eliminate pathogenic microorganisms, it keeps them in a latent state in which they do not multiply either. This freezing temperature maintains the original characteristics of the food and reduces the risk of contamination. However, not all foods need to be refrigerated or frozen, as some food (such as oil, pastries, potatoes, nuts, pasta, rice, etc.) can be stored at room temperature, in dry places or, in some cases, away from light.
It is recommended to cook at a temperature of 75 ºC for a minimum of two minutes.
At what temperature do bacteria die in food?
In order to ensure proper food hygiene, it is important to know the temperature at which bacteria die in food. One of the most effective methods of killing bacteria is cooking at, at least, 75°C for two minutes, although temperature and time requirements depend on the food and the microorganisms it may harbor. In cooking methods such as boiling, temperatures reach around 100ºC, while in frying, temperatures range between 180 and 300ºC. In the latter case, special care must be taken to ensure that the food reaches a minimum temperature because the temperature of the oil decreases when the food is introduced and depends on its thickness. The temperature of both methods is adequate to eliminate most microorganisms and thus ensure safe consumption.
Hygiene of the most common foods
For proper hygiene, a number of food handling rules must be followed. A common guideline for all types of food is that when cooking or handling any food, you should first make sure that the work area and utensils and tools are well cleaned and disinfected.
Before cutting or cooking, make sure that it is kept in a fit condition. To do this, make sure that the scales are firm, the gills are reddish and the eyes are bulging and shiny. Cooking at a minimum temperature of 65°C is recommended.
In the case of chicken, make sure it has its characteristic smell and texture. If it has a soft, sticky film or a greenish colour it is no longer suitable for consumption. Recommendations for handling chicken include: using only a designated chicken board, wearing gloves when handling chicken, planning for consumption and thawing at least 24 hours, and avoiding contamination of other foods with chicken blood or meat fluids. It is also recommended to cook the chicken at a minimum temperature of 75ºC.
In the case of beef, again, the first thing to note is that it retains its original characteristics and is still fit for consumption. Other recommendations include using a specific beef chart, wearing gloves when handling meat, and making sure the meat is not in contact with other products. The recommended cooking temperature is 75°C. It is also recommended not to keep the meat in the freezer for long periods of time, as this will change its colour and lose its nutrients.
For pork it is advisable to follow the same steps as for beef, unlike the cooking temperature, as in this case the recommended minimum is 64ºC.
Seafood is particularly fragile in terms of contamination, so for safety reasons, it is necessary to ensure that the cold chain is not broken in food handling processes. The recommendations for handling seafood are to chill cooked seafood in an ice bath and to eat frozen seafood with head as soon as possible, as the head causes faster deterioration of the seafood even if it is frozen.
Vegetables and fruits
Fruits and vegetables are among the most easily and quickly contaminated foods. As with all other foods, the first recommendation is to observe that the qualities of the food are preserved. In the case of fruits and vegetables, it is important to eliminate those specimens that begin to deteriorate in order to avoid the spread of the rest. It is also important to wash and disinfect these foods before consumption or processing. These foods require particularly careful handling, since the blows generate breakages in the pieces that accelerate their decomposition. It is recommended to use a knife and specific board for cutting fruits and vegetables.
Avoid exposure of milk products to room temperature for more than two hours (30 minutes for cheese). Milk products should be kept in the refrigerator for a maximum of 3 days.
Acrylamide in food
In recent years there has been growing concern about acrylamide. This chemical forms naturally in some foods after cooking at temperatures above 120ºC, as a consequence of the commonly known as Maillard Reaction. These foods are those rich in carbohydrates and starch. The cooking methods that favour the creation of acrylamide are frying, roasting and toasting.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) claims that research on animals suggests that consumption of acrylamide increases the likelihood of developing tumours or genetic mutations, and conclude that acrylamide consumption in humans potentially increases the risk of cancer.
One of the physical evidences observed in acrylamide foods is changes in taste and color (they take on a golden hue). Thus, the more golden (or burned) a food is, the more likely it is to contain a larger amount of acrylamide .
In November 2017, the European Union published the UE 2017/2158 Regulation in order to establish measures for operators with the aim of reducing the level of acrylamide in food.
The usual foods in which acrylamide can be formed are:
According to WHO, these are some of the measures that need to be taken to prevent the creation of acrylamide in food:
Concerning fried potatoes:
- Store them outside the refrigerator in a dark and cool place.
- Wash them well before frying.
- Prefer coarse cutting instead of fine cutting.