(POSTED: June 22, 2007)
The Importance of Kitchen Sanitation
Expounding on the reasons for sanitary conditions and methods when preparing food.
The food we eat is a potentially hazardous substance. Period. That is precisely the reason it needs to be handled with the utmost care to insure that what is consumed is wholesome. In 1971 the Pillsbury Corporation developed the HACCP System for NASA to make sure that the food consumed by astronauts in outer space was safe, states the publication Applied Food Service Sanitation.
What is HACCP? It stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. This method of monitoring food and the processing of such from the time of receiving the raw product through to the time of final service helps insure a safe and wholesome product is served.
Why is food potentially hazardous? Because bacteria uses it to survive like we do. Some bacteria we can consume with no real problems, except perhaps allergies, such as those found in cheese. Other bacteria is less consumer friendly along with the toxins these produce such as salmonella, staphylococcus, and E.Coli, and forbid anyone should even mention botulism! The toxins produced by this bacteria attack the nervous system and can be deadly. Then you have parasites that can contaminate food such as trichinosis. Also physical hazards such as broken glass can pose a threat if it ends up on some ones plate and is consumed. So that is why HACCP is so necessary.
In just a few hours at breeding temperatures and with the right conditions bacteria can go from a few to a few billion. So it is important to remember FAT TOM (food, acidity, time, temperature, oxygen, moisture). Basically bacteria likes the same environment that we do. Warm, moist, with plenty of time and food to consume. That is why temperatures below 40'F and above 140'F are best to hold foods at because bacteria find these environments inhospitable, and the freezer can shut most bacteria down completely.
Temperatures 160' and above will kill most bacteria, but if sufficient time has been given for the food to 'spoil' bacteria may have produced toxins that will not be inactivated by heat. That is why most food items have a maximum limit of a total of 4 hours at room temperature. Bacteria does not do well in a high acid environment or a high sugar/salt environment so vinaigrettes and other high acid items can keep longer at room temperature, but a lot is based on the amount of acidity. Salt and sugar mixtures plus a lack of moisture can make certain foods safe at room temperature like crisp cooked bacon. The salt and sugar bind up the moisture not allowing the bacteria an environment to grow in.
Some bacteria grow in aerobic environments, in other words they need oxygen to survive, and others in an anaerobic environment, such as the deadly botulism bacteria, where an absence of oxygen is needed. This poses a canning risk for low acid items such as mushrooms or green beans. Never taste product from a can that is bloated! Discard immediately! Also, the washing of hands with sanitizing soap is extremely important to stop not only the passing on of bacteria but also viruses. Raw meats should never be cut on the same cutting boards as vegetables that will be consumed raw, cross contamination is a hazard and can pass on food born illnesses.
This is by no means exhaustive but we do see that proper handling of food is necessary to ensure wholesomeness and all food service professionals, really anyone who has contact with food items needs to know and practice food safety and sanitation standards. Contact the National Restaurant Association for extensive information on food safety.