Food Hygiene – What are Germs

Germs are microscopic, that means you can’t see them without a powerful microscope. This is why they are called microbes or micro-organisms. The two main types of micro-organisms that we are interested in, from the point of food hygiene, are bacteria and viruses. Some micro-organisms are very beneficial and in fact can be necessary to life. However are harmful and cause illness and these are the ones we refer to as Germs.

When germs are in food they can cause food poisoning. Food poisoning can occur with smaller or greater severity and in the worst cases can cause death. Because you cannot see them and often cannot smell or taste them, it is very difficult to know if they are present. This is why it is so important to avoid contamination in the first place

Bacteria are the cause of the worst types of food poisoning and the likelihood of becoming ill is in direct proportion to the number of bacteria present.

With the ideal conditions of warmth, moisture and food, bacteria will multiply very quickly so we need to make it difficult for them to do so. Some bacteria need oxygen to multiply and others do not, others can be affected by acidity and the presence of sugar and salt. The conditions need to be considered in different cases for different kinds of food. One thing is for sure, In ideal conditions they multiply fast and a single bacteria can become millions in just a few hours.

Food hygiene certificate safe temperature chart

Food Safety Temperatures

Temperature has a large art to play in how fast bacteria will multiply. Over 70 degrees centigrade (as in proper cooking) will kill them. If the temperature is less than 5 degrees centigrade, the growth will slow and continue to slow as the temperature drops. A very low temperature can kill some bacteria but others will wait until the temperature rises and start growing again. This is why the correct cooking and proper chilling plays such an important part in food hygiene and helps to lessen the growth of bacteria and thus the chance of food poisoning. The very worst temperature range for bacteria growth is between 5 and 60 degrees Centigrade, This is the temperature to avoid.

Food Hygiene – Cross contamination

From the point where food is grown to the point where it hits the table, food can be be contaminated by bacteria. If they continue to grow and multiply they can make you ill when you eat the food. The germs on contaminated food can be spread to uncontaminated food by someone’s hands or by any kitchen utensils if not kept scrupulously clean. We call this cross contamination.

Food Hygiene – Food Poisoning

Food poisoning can come from eating any contaminated food and the symptoms can last for days. They include nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhoea and stomach cramps. They can appear a few days after the food was eaten but tend to appear suddenly. In most cases the sufferer will improve without treatment but in severe cases, or if the symptoms persist, you should see a doctor as vomiting and diarrhoea may be due to something other than food poisoning.

Food Poisoning – High Risk Groups

A healthy person might only experience mild symptoms with food poisoning, or may not even notice they have had it at all, but anyone with less resistance may suffer a great deal more.

Those who are at the most risk from food poisoning are groups like young children and babies, pregnant women and sick or elderly people. If any of these groups are affected you should seek medical advice at once. Most cases of food poisoning could be prevented with care and attention when preparing food and extra care should be taken when preparing food for any of the above groups. It does not take a lot of effort to keep the risks to a minimum which can be done by following a few simple and common sense food hygiene rules.

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