THE CAUSES OF FOOD POISONING IN THE CATERING INDUSTRY – HOME ECONOMICS Project Topics – Complete project material


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1    BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

          Food is any substance consumed by humans or animals, and its main function is to deliver nutrition to the body in order to maintain life and growth. Food is usually obtained from plant or animal sources and contains essential nutrients such as fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals. Growth is stimulated by the absorption of these nutrients by cells of the body. Also, note that water can be classified as food although it provides no calories or nutrients per se (Johnson, 2005).    

          The increasing number of food poisoning outbreaks and food-related scares has led to calls for better hygiene and quality practices. Food poisoning outbreaks of salmonella, listeria, and Escherichia coli have made the public more skeptical of the food they consume. Recently, debate surrounding The European Commission has recognized the importance of controlling food-poisoning outbreaks owing to the increasing number of meals consumed outside the home, in parallel with the ever-expanding range of pre-prepared meals.

          This changing consumer lifestyle emphasizes the need for better, effective ways of controlling food hygiene. There is strong statistical evidence that the incidence of food poisoning caused by caterers is greater than in any other food sector, accounting for 70% of all bacterial food poisoning outbreaks. Seventy per cent of these food poisoning outbreaks are due to the inadequate time and temperature control of food, while the remaining 30% are the result of cross-contamination (Wilson, Murray, Black, & McDowell, 1997).

          The hands of food service employees can be vectors in the spread of food-borne diseases because of poor personal hygiene or cross-contamination. For example, an employee might contaminate his hands when using the toilet, or bacteria might be spread from raw meat to salad greens by food handler’s hands, point out that data on risk factors for food-borne diseases imply that most outbreaks result from improper food handling practices (Ehiri & Morris, 1996). A study in the USA suggested that improper food handler practices contributed to approximately 97% of food-borne illnesses in food-service establishments and homes (Howes, McEwen, Griffiths, & Harris, 1996).

          Food poisoning follows the ingestion of microorganisms that may have been present in already contaminated food, which may have resulted from inadequate food preservation techniques or unsafe handling practices or which may have arisen from cross-contamination from surfaces, equipment, or, less likely, from persons who carry enterotoxigenic staphylococci in their nails or on their skin (Barrie, 1996; Jay, Comar, & Govenlock, 1999). Similarly, infected food handlers are also a common source of food-borne viruses such as the Hepatitis A virus and the diarrhoea-causing, small round-structured viruses which are excreted in large numbers by infected individuals. Many cases of foodborne virus infection have been associated with catering (WHO, 1999). Poor sanitary practices in food storage, handling, and preparation can create an environment in which bacteria such as camphylobacter, salmonella, and other infectious agents are more easily transmitted (Fielding, Aguirre, & Palaiologos, 2001; Gent, Telford, & Syed, 1999).

          Food handlers may transmit pathogens passively from a contaminated source, for example, from raw poultry to a food such as cold cooked meat that is to be eaten without further heating. They may also, however, themselves to be sources of organisms either during the course of gastrointestinal illness or during and after convalescence, when they no longer have symptoms.

          During the acute stages of gastroenteritis large number of organisms are excreted and by the nature of the disease are likely to be widely dispersed; clearly, food handlers who are symptomatically ill may present a real hazard and should be excluded from work. Good hygiene, both personal and in food handling practices, is the basis for preventing the transmission of pathogens from food handling personnel to consumer. (Bryan, 1988; Evans et al., 1998). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with support from enforcement agencies and the food industry and catering establishment has endorsed food service worker training since 1976; however, since that time, the retail food service industry, has intensified efforts to improve retail food safety through training of restaurant managers and employees (Lynch, Elledge, Griffith, & Boatrigh, 2003).


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