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The following essay on food safety will discuss about the importance of food safety and why governments and food standards agency now a days focus on the devastating consequences of food borne illness and diseases. It will deal with food poisoning and its risks. Apart from it the most common types of pathogens (salmonella, e coli, and campylobacter) have been mentioned describing the outbreaks. The main thing is that all the above-mentioned things have been explained here with a focus on the food safety management. Some of the tools such as irradiation and specially HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) to support hospitality management have also occupied some space here with its importance. As a final point, it has been thought to be practical to examine the solution with recommendations for practical adoption for the hospitality industry to deal with the complexity and cost of the above food safety management tools
The world is full of various kinds of problems and it is true that everyday efforts are made to find out solution to these problems and some of them are sorted out too. Among the issues concerned directly with the human survival, which are posing a very big challenge in front of the world, one is the issue of food safety. According to Nestle 2004, food ‘poisonings', causing death, raise alarm not only about the food served in restaurants and fast-food outlets but also about the food bought in supermarkets. Consumers, industries as well governments are together taking food safety as a serious issue. There is a saying “health is wealth” and any carelessness which may cause food poisoning or any problem like this may lead to a very fatal consequence, so it becomes essential to take necessary food safety measures. To make sure food is safe to eat the Food Standards Agency carries out a range of work, including funding research on chemical, microbiological and radiological safety, as well as food hygiene and allergy.. As Griffths 2000 says, the food chain, like any other chain, is only as strong as its weakest link and the responsibility for food safety lies not only with producers and processors of food, but also governments and consumers themselves.
Food Poisoning & its risks
Food is essential to life but if contaminated can cause illness and even death.
But fortunately only in a minority of cases the latter happened although there is social and economic consequences associated with the millions of cases of food related illness. The WHO definition embraces all food and waterborne illness regardless of the presenting symptoms and includes “any disease of an infectious or toxic nature caused by, or thought to be cause by, the consumption of food or water” (Griffith 2006). Food borne disease therefore includes illness caused by various chemical, physical or microbiological hazards, which may be present in food or water. Anything that interferes with the safe foods is a food hazard (Hemminger, 2000) which can be present in the product that can cause harm to the consumer either through illness.
Biological hazards include food borne infection which occurs eating something with live germs inside them. On the other hand it also consists of food intoxication occurring when a person eats something with bacteria- produced poisons that won't be killed by heating. The agents causing these food infections are bacteria, toxins, virus, parasites and fungi. Current food trends reveal that more and more frequently today we buy pre-prepared ready-to eat convenience foods, dine out in restaurants and cafés, prefer fresh over frozen products and have a growing demand for foods of animal origin. While this gives us many new choices in the food we eat, this vast selection of foods we expect to be available to us “now” has possibly created a greater risk of bacterial food poisoning. Germs or bacteria grow in the food themselves when people don't store it properly or handle with care. Even in the fridge, the food may get bacteria. Food poisoning bacteria are often present naturally in food but usually only in small numbers. However, given the right conditions their numbers can increase extremely quickly, so that 1 single bacteria could multiply to over 16 million in only 6 hours. This is where the food poisoning problem begins. As Eley 1996 says, some food poisoning is of mild level and some is strong level. Accordingly the food affects the human body and causes health problems while sometimes it result to be fatal too.
For food poisoning to occur there must be bacteria or their toxin present in the food. Secondly the food must be suitable for organism's growth. There must be right conditions of warmth and moisture for the bacteria to grow while with sufficient tome for bacteria to grow and multiply. Adding above all there must be enough bacteria or their toxin present to cause present to cause illness and the food should be consumed. This is commonly called the food poisoning chain which is diagrammed below.
. HIGH RISK FOODS
Common Pathogens (in the Hospitality Industry)
The three principle food poisoning pathogens that are dealt with that might affect the hospitality industries are Salmonella, E-coli and Campylobacter.
Salmonella is usually heard of in the catering industry with reference to chicken and eggs. Some pets like birds and turtles also carry this Salmonella. The most appalling thing about it is that it can even go into the lymph tracts, which are known for tracking water and protein to the blood, and the blood itself. Thus it may cause some serious complications too. The main symptoms associated with the disease salmonellasis are fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cramps, and headache. Time frame lasts for 12-36 hrs normally 4-7 days. The prevention could be to chill food quickly, using pasteurized milk and egg products. Raw and cooked cross-contamination should be avoided and equipment should be sanitized properly.
Escherichia coli (E. coli) belong to the host of bacterial germs and is mainly found in beef. However, its dangerous relative, E.Coli 0157 H7, only appeared in the 1970's, perhaps coevolving in Argentina or Chile, two cattle raising countries with a high meat diet. E Coli 0157 is a mutant form which lives in the intestines of some cattle, sheep and goats but is not naturally found in the intestines of man but it can produce toxins which can be very fatal even if ingested in small amounts. It was first recognised as a pathogen in 1982 as a result of outbreak of unusual gastrointestinal illness. The illness was traced to contaminated hamburgers and it was similar to the other outbreaks in Japan and America. Among other known sources of infection are eating of vegetables like sprouts, lettuce, salami,unpasteurized milk and juice, and swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water.
In September 2006, there was an outbreak of food-borne illness caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria found in uncooked spinach in 26 U.S. states. By October 06, 2006 199 people had been infected, including three people who died and 31 who suffered a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome after eating spinach contaminated with the E. coli O157:H7. A subsequent outbreak, in November-December 2006, was initially attributed to green onions served by two restaurant chains — Taco Bell and Taco John's — but later was determined to have been caused by prepackaged iceberg lettuce. Overall, at least 276 consumer illnesses and 3 deaths have been attributed to the tainted produce. (en.wikipedia.org) Among the most recent outbreaks of E Coli 0157 in U.K. was in August 2009 which lead to severe illness in a number of visitors to Godstone Farm in Surrey. It was reported by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) that the total number of cases of E Coli O157 linked to Godstone Farm in Surrey is 86 ( www.ecoli-uk.com).
Campylobacter bacteria differ from E.Coli and Salmonella as it is a food-borne pathogen, as opposed to a food poisoning pathogen and is transmitted by food. In contrast with food poisoning bacteria it does not develop and multiply in food. However only a few bacteria are required to cause illness, with the food acting as the vehicle of transmission. This bacteria is found on poultry, cattle, and sheep can contaminate meat and milk of these animals. Symptoms occur are severe vomiting, diarrhoea, cramps and prostration. Time frame is usually 2-4hrs and lasts for 2-3 days. This can be prevented by keeping hot food and cold food cold while washing hands properly.
Appendix A provides the various causes and symptoms of the pathogens that can impact on the hospitality industry.
FOOD SAFETY MANAGEMENT TOOLS
Food Irradiation & its costs
Food irradiation is a processing technique that exposes food to electron beams, X-rays or gamma rays, and produces a similar effect to pasteurization, cooking or other forms of heat treatment, but with less effect on look and texture (www.food.gov.uk). It is used to kill bacteria listed above like Salmonella, Ecoli, and campylobacter. Irradiation stops vegetables such as onions and potatoes from sprouting and also delays fruit ripening. Generally beams of radiation are passed into food transferring energy which kills the bacteria. It can prevent the division of microorganisms which cause food spoilage, such as bacteria and moulds, by changing their molecular structure.
Any food process will add cost which In most cases just don't rise just because a product has been treated. Many variables affect it ,one of them is the cost of processing. Irradiation costs range from US $10 to $15 per tonne for a low-dose application (for example, to inhibit the growth of sprouts in potatoes and onions) to US $100 to $250 per tonne for a high-dose application. The cost to build a commercial cobalt-60 food irradiation plant is in the range of US $3 million to $5 million, depending on its size, processing capacity, and other factors but this is within the range of plant cost for other technologies (www.iaea.org). Often the capital costs of irradiation equipment are seen as too expensive, even though low operating costs for most products make per unit costs very competitive with other treatments. Commercial contract multipurpose irradiators work in many countries offering irradiation services at reasonable cost. Since irradiation gives the added economic benefit of long-lasting fresh market life for many foods, decreased waste and increased market potential of the food should be considered in a cost-benefit analysis.
Implementation of HACCP & its costs
HACCP is a systematic approach to be used in food production as a means to assure food safety (Corlett & Pierson 1992). (Appendix B provides the seven principles). But according to Mayes & Martimore, 2005 “absolute safety is absolutely unattainable, but effective HACCP implementation is the surest way of delivering safe food”. If implemented properly (Appendix C), there are benefits in the area of product quality which is primarily due to the increased awareness of hazards in general and people participation from all areas of operation. While on the other hand if HACCP is not properly applied then it may not result in an effective control system. This may be due to improperly trained or untrained personnel not following the principles correctly or it may be through lack of maintenance of the HACCP system.
HACCP is carried out by people. If the people are not properly experienced and trained then the resulting HACCP system is likely to be ineffective and unsound (Mortimore & Wallace 1998). Small and Medium sized enterprise (SMEs) rarely have the skills, knowledge or resources needed to develop and implement a HACCP programme. This is where the use of internal or external expert consultants can be a good way of getting started. But it is also debated that the SMEs might lack the internal resources to organize the training themselves and the financial resources to use an external training provider. Naturally the larger the company the smaller the percentage and so it makes it more difficult and costly for small businesses to implement HACCP which will need the services of external consultants as they can not afford full time staff.
Another major issue related to the implementation of HACCP is its costs which come from staff training, investing in new equipment, external consultancy service, structural changes to buildings and employing new staffs. Not only has the cost of HACCP for hospitality industry depended on the requirements of the system but also on the improvement of the current status of the food safety-related practices in the company. It is better to acknowledge that there will be an investment in order to reap the benefits of HACCP. How much will depend on its available resources within the organization and what training is needed. However accurate estimation of benefits and costs prior to implementation is difficult and should be based on actual experience.
To sum up it is seen that food borne illness is always at a high in some countries. Whilst it is difficult to predict events, strategies and research in the future are likely to recognise not only the importance of food safety management systems, but the role of individuals, working with their peers and superiors, within a business food safety culture. It is understood that this actively involves the businesses and managers themselves and they must consider the active and unconscious food safety messages they communicate to their employees. Failure to do so might result in high volume of food borne illness in some day among ourselves.
Recommendations for Hospitality Industry
The following recommendations were being suggested that can be applied to the hospitality industry.
* Hospitality Industries must follow the four basic steps to reduce food borne diseases
Clean: Washing hands and surfaces often
Separate: Don't cross- contaminate
Cook: Cooking to proper temperature
Chill: Refrigerating properly
* Realistic guidance should be provided to the caterers to identify the hazards present and deal with the complexity of HACCP. It must reflect the working conditions of hospitality operations and be produced by professional caterers with operational experience. It must deal with all the possible hazards involved in producing food for immediate consumption, from the source to the customer's plate.
* Effective training should be given to the senior management, the HACCP team and team leader and other production staff which will develop awareness and motivation as well as provide technical and practical knowledge. It should not be an classroom activity but an ongoing programme in the workplace.
* To deal with the complexity of HACCP, proper documentation should be made of the hazards together with the critical control points in order to make it safe, which in turn will allow chefs to see HACCP as useful and easy to apply.
* A base line audit of training requirements, researching the available resources and then drafting a casted training plan can be made. From the total of these costs and a comparison with the annual sales of food and beverage a percentage will be found - that is what is the percentage of food and beverage sales which needs to be spent on a HACCP system. Based on the above percentage managers could implement a strategy for menu pricing to cover up the cost.
* Finally developing and distributing clear guidelines to the food service mangers in the event of a suspected food borne illness outbreak will improve food safety within the hospitality industry.
Corlett, Jr. A. D and Pierson, D. M. (1992). Haccp: Principles and applications. Chapman & Hall: London.
Eley, A. R. (1996), Microbial food poisoning, 2nd edition, Chapman & Hall, London, pp. 200
Griffiths, O. A. (2001). Haccp works: Integrated Food Safety Management for Food Business. Highfield publication: Doncaster.
Hemminger, M. J. (2000). Food Safety: A guide to what you really need to know. Blackweel publishing:U.S.
Mayes, T. and Mortimore, S. (2001), Making the most of HACCP: Learning from others' experience, Woodhead Publishing Limited, Cambridge.
Nestle, M. (2003) Safe Food:bacteria, biotechnology and bioterroisism. University of California press: London.
Wallace, C. and Mortimore, S. (1994). Haccp: a pratical approach. Chapman & Hall: London.
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Food Irradiation .Retieved from www.iaea.org/nafa/d5/public/foodirradiation.pdf at 11pm on 19th Nov,2009
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Food Borne Illness. Retrieved from http://www.fightbac.org/content/view/11/18/ on 9th Nov,2009