We will continue our food safety regime this week with a very important component, contamination. Food is considered contaminated when it contains a hazardous substance. They can be either physical, biological or chemical. Most common is the the biological which consist of bacteria, parasites, virus or fungi. Knowing what these things are will help to prevent the causes of these contaminations, keeping your foods safe.
Physical contamination is pretty straight forward, this is when something enters food that does not belong there. These can be shavings from can openers, pieces of cookware, hair, dirt or plastic.
You can prevent these pretty easily by making sure there are no loose things on your person, making sure your hair is restrained, and that your area is free from exposure to things that could fall in.
In a restaurant, we do take this very seriously, and when I have a complaint that deals with something in food that doesn’t belong, I am more upset than any other time. These can be prevented most of the time by proper washing and care of food. A blinding example of this is when glass breaks in a restaurant, we will throw out any and all food that was even close to the event. It is better to throw out hundreds of dollars in food, than to risk injuring a guest.
Chemical contaminations are usually caused by chemicals getting mixed in with foods. This can be caused by chemicals being stored near foods, or cleaning overspray around cooked or cooking foods. As a whole, keep your chemicals away from food at all times. They should be stored in separate locations, and chemicals should NEVER be stored above foods. Make sure to not spray any chemicals around foods while preparing them. Lastly, be sure to rinse containers well after cleaning them.
Chemicals consist of toxins, chemicals, and even chemical reactions. Toxins are found in plants like Rhubarb leaves, Hemlock, and certain mushrooms. Toxins are especially dangerous and cannot be removed by cooking or freezing, therefore, the only way to keep food safe, is to keep free of them. Never eating a mushroom that is picked in the wild.
Chemical reactions cause toxic reactions depending on situations. Copper is a prime example of a toxic metal that actually can have a reaction when mixed with acidic foods. Zinc or galvanized products can also cause reactions. Only use food grade utensils for preparing and storing food. I would avoid shopping at Home Depot for cooking supplies. Toxins can also occur naturally in some fish, so this is one more reason to only buy fish from reputable places.
We covered some of the biologic agents in a previous post on the micro world, and if you didn’t get a chance to read it, check it out. What Microorganisms Need To Grow.
Read more on specific toxic metals at Wikipedia.
Keep your kitchen safe!