Common Food Poisoning Bacteria

For commercial food production or manufacturing facilities, common food poisoning bacteria are a risk that requires constant management and attention. Food poisoning outbreaks have seemingly dominated headlines in 2018 with numerous local and international cases re-establishing just how important it is to manage this risk effectively.

How will food poising bacteria impact your business

Brand damage: reputational damage and the loss of trust in your brand can result in long term adverse financial consequences as customers opt to support your competitors.

Legal costs: Food poisoning is known to cause long term side effects in human beings and for this reason, the legal costs relating to compensation and personal injury that are likely to arise from an outbreak, can be crippling to a business.

Loss of profit: When your facilities are forced to close following an outbreak, your business will suffer significant financial losses as the time frames around safety audits and other processes can span an indeterminable time-frame.

Insurance premiums: Once you have made a claim for food poisoning, your business will be considered risky, which will significantly increase your insurance premiums going forward.

Fines for non-compliance: A food poisoning incident will be related to your non-compliance with food safety standards, which will in turn attract hefty fines from the authorities.

How does food poisoning bacteria contaminate product in your facility?

While many believe that meat and dairy products are the most likely to be contaminated by food poisoning bacteria, as our needs and wants as consumers have changed, this is today not entirely true.

Imported foods: Fruits, vegetables, grains and other basic ingredients are imported in larger quantities today than ever before. While imported foods are not necessarily unsafe, the risk for contamination does increase in transit from the country of origin to its destination.

Prepared foods: Pre-cut fruits, vegetables and meats have become increasingly popular in recent years and are frequently used in restaurants and other food preparation facilities today. With no control over the environment in which pre-cut foods are prepared, businesses risk extending possible contamination into their own facilities.

Personal hygiene: Staff need to be correctly trained to ensure that they follow the required personal hygiene practices such as the appropriate washing of hands as well as avoiding touching parts of their body and covering their mouths while preparing food.

Incorrect storage: Certain foods will always contain some bacteria. Poor handling of these foods may result in cross contamination. An example of this would be a high risk food, such as a raw chicken thawing in a refrigerator, that is placed in contact with cooked meat. The bacteria from the raw chicken will contaminate the cooked meat and since the cooked meat may not be heated again before eating, the bacteria from the chicken will pass to the person who eats the meat.

Avoid these: The five most common food poisoning bacteria

Bacteria need warmth and moisture to thrive. They reproduce by dividing themselves and in ideal conditions, one bacterium could become several million in a matter of hours.
Clostridium Perfringens: Found in low numbers in many foods, particularly meat and poultry, this bacteria is also found in the soil, the intestines of humans and animals, in sewage and in animal manures. An infection results in diarrhoea and severe abdominal pain. This bacteria is killed at high cooking temperatures, but the heat-resistant spores they produce are able to survive and may actually be stimulated to germinate by heat. The foods most likely to be associated with Clostridium perfringens food poisoning include those that are cooked slowly in large quantities and left to stand for a long time at room temperature.

Salmonella: The second most common cause of food poisoning, salmonella is found in unpasteurised milk, eggs and raw egg products, meat and poultry. It grows in food and thrives if food is warmed but not cooked properly and is often spread by knives, cutting surfaces and infected individuals. People infected with Salmonella should be particularly careful with personal hygiene because they could infect another person who comes into direct contact with them.

Listeria monocytogenes: Present everywhere, listeria is present in low numbers in many foods but is most commonly found in hot dogs, cold meats, unpasteurized milk and unwashed raw produce. Soft mould-ripened cheeses and pâtés, tend to contain higher concentrations of this bacteria. Listeria usually causes illness in vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, babies, the elderly and people with reduced immunity. Among these groups, the illness is often severe and life threatening.

E.coli 0157: Most strains of E.coli are harmless, but those that produce verocytotoxin (called verocytotoxin-producing E.coli, or VTEC) can cause serious illness. E.coli 0157 can cause severe diarrhea and kidney damage. This bacteria is spread primarily through undercooked ground beef, though other sources include unpasteurized milk, alfalfa sprouts and contaminated water.

Campylobacter: Found primarily in poultry, red meat, unpasteurised milk and untreated water. Although it doesn’t grow in food, campylobacter spreads easily, so only a few bacteria in a piece of undercooked meat could result in illness. Campylobacter infections don’t usually cause vomiting, but diarrhoea can be severe with abdominal cramps.

Maintain your food safety management program.

Though having a food safety management program in place is essential, it is how that program is managed that will either place your business at risk or safeguard your business interests and the health of your staff and employees.

Protect your food processing facility or commercial kitchen by letting us help you plan your food safety management program and implementing more stringent hygiene practices. To arrange a consultation with one of our food safety and commercial hygiene experts, ring us on 087 803 022 or send us a message today.

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