Food Safety

At the beginning of my career my first lesson with food was to learn and understand about food hygiene and safety. Food hygiene should be in the minds of a chef every step of the way from delivery of the food all the way up until the dinner takes that first bite. There are a lot of steps involved to insure that food safety is always 100% but food poisoning does occur now and again.

Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating contaminated food. Most people will get better without the need for treatment. In most cases, the food that causes the illness has been contaminated by bacteria, such as salmonella or E. coli, or the most common virus, such as the norovirus.

Norovirus, sometimes known as the winter vomiting bug, is the most common stomach bug in the UK, affecting people of all ages. The virus, which is highly contagious, causes vomiting and diarrhoea. As there is no specific cure, you have to let it run its course, but it should not last more than a couple of days.

Having norovirus can be an unpleasant experience, but it’s not generally dangerous and most people make a full recovery within a couple of days, without having to see a doctor. Between 600,000 and 1 million people in the UK catch norovirus every year. You may have heard of it as the “winter vomiting bug” because the illness is more common in winter. However, the virus can be caught at any time of the year.

Foods that are particularly vulnerable to contamination if they are not handled, stored or cooked correctly include:

  • raw meat and poultry
  • ‘ready to eat’ foods such as cooked sliced meats, pate, soft cheeses and pre-packed sandwiches
  • dairy products, such as eggs and milk

The most common symptoms are:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea

Other symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • stomach cramps
  • abdominal pain
  • loss of appetite
  • a high temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • muscle pain
  • chills

You can relieve the symptoms of food poisoning by:

  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • eating easily digested food, such as toast, until you feel better
  • resting

During 2010, there were almost 84,560 cases of food poisoning in England and Wales. However, the actual figure may be considerably higher than this because many people with mild symptoms like vomiting and diarrhoea caused by a norovirus do not report them.

Signs that you may have a more serious case of food poisoning that requires medical attention include:

  • vomiting that lasts for more than two days
  • not being able to keep liquids down for more than a day
  • diarrhoea that lasts for more than three days or is bloody
  • fever

I would like you to know that all chefs know about the food safety aspect of the professional kitchen, even if they do not have a certificate to prove it. I have trained chefs and will continue to train chefs that have not gone to study catering, and they all understand the importance of food safety in the kitchen, It’s The 1St Rule Of Cooking.

Most if not all work places should work with their local Environmental Health Officer (EHO) to make sure that all staff are properly trained and up to date with all food safety aspects of the kitchen including the front of house staff.

I hope this post gives you a little insight to what food poisoning is and where it may come from.