Listeria – The Risks Involved

Listeria - The Risks Involved | Harmony Supply Blog

Listeria is a type of bacteria that causes listeriosis, a serious illness with a fatality rate of 20%. Most cases involve hospitalization. Children, elderly, and adults with weakened immune systems are most susceptible. Healthy adults may avoid listeriosis, but are still susceptible to gastroenteritis. Vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea are the most common symptoms. If the bacteria spreads beyond the gut, a fever may arise. Some doctors may mistakenly diagnose patients with “stomach flu,” although listeria is not related to influenza. A bacterial culture verifies listeriosis.

Listeria Risks

Listeria is common in the food services industry. It is impossible to prevent this bacteria from entering your setting. It survives extreme cold, acidic, and oxygen deprived environments. Refrigeration and freezing do not prevent listeria growth. In fact, listeria continues to grow in the cold. Because of its durability, the only way to prevent listeria contamination is through proper training and procedures. Cleaning and sanitizing equipment is not enough. Listeria can survive in HVAC systems, floors, crevices, or hard to reach places. Without sufficient procedures, your company may be liable for any lapses that cause a listeria outbreak. Fines, fees, and litigation will increase costs on top of product recalls and reputation damage.

Cleaning and Sanitizing to Prevent Listeria

Safety is the first priority for the food industry. Cleaning and Sanitizing (C&S) are the key components to fulfill your responsibility. Cleaning involves removing all surface level contaminants such as food, oil, and dirt. Bacteria cling to these contaminants and block chemicals from reaching the surface. All work surfaces require cleaning including walls, drains, and floors.

All machinery should be broken down into its base components in order to properly sanitize each element. Bacteria festers in hard to reach places. Once a significant amount of bacteria congregate in one area, it forms a biofilm that can prevent proper sanitization.

It is common for drains to contain biofilms. Because they are overlooked and cleaned less often, it can be ground zero for a listeria outbreak in your facility. If a drain contains a biofilm, then cleaning and sanitizing will not be sufficient. The bacteria will spread onto the floor through the drain onto employee boots and clothes. If a pressurized washer is used to clean drains, then the blast will spread listeria through the air onto equipment. If drains flood, production should be ceased immediately. Slot drain systems prevent bacteria from festering. Otherwise, frequent cleaning is the best way to prevent biofilms and listeria.

Detergents, solvents, acids, and abrasive cleaners are the most common cleaners used.

Detergents are useful for lifting most soil from the surface. For grease, solvent cleaners can be used even when grease has burned onto the surface. Acid cleaners are used on mineral deposits such as hard water. Abrasive cleaners remove significant soil accumulations, generally in small areas. Because of its abrasive qualities, its use should be limited to surfaces unable to be cleaned by a detergent.

Surfaces must be cleaned of all organic material. Bacteria feeds off organic material and prevents proper sanitization.

Cleaners do not remove all microorganisms and bacteria. Sanitizers must be used in conjunction with cleaners.

Sanitizing

Sanitizing proceeds cleaning. It involves applying chemicals or heat to a cleaned surface. Although sanitization does not sterilize an environment, it is sufficient for most settings. Heat is useful because listeria cannot survive past 149 degrees fahrenheit or 60 degrees celsius. Properly cooked food will not contain listeria if it is heated past 149 degrees. Dishwashers reach this temperature and thus too are effective means to sanitize.

Chemicals are used for food-contact surfaces. Chlorine, iodine, and  quaternary ammonium compounds are all approved for food-contact surfaces.

Chlorine is the most common sanitizer. It is effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses along with all spores. Salmonella, cryptosporidium, and giardia are all resistant to chlorine. In instances involving chlorine resistant microorganisms, quaternary ammonium compounds work effectively. Chlorine is not effective against biofilms and is toxic when inhaled and when in contact with skin. There is a positive residual effect that keeps the surface free of bacteria for a limited time.

Iodine is an acid sanitizer. It is effective against bacteria, fungi, viruses, and tuberculosis. Iodine has a slight resistance to listeria, meaning longer exposure times are necessary. To remove a listeria infested biofilm with iodine, soak the film. Because iodine is an acid, be careful when it comes into contact with other sanitizers. Chlorine mixed with an acid produces a deadly, toxic gas. If exposed, immediately remove everyone from the environment. Iodine is also extremely corrosive and causes chemical burns on the skin.

Proper protection is required when cleaning with acids like iodine.

Quaternary ammonium cleaner is effective against vegetative bacteria. Vegetative bacteria is bacteria that is not growing. QA is effective against biofilms and does not require soaking time like iodine. Like chlorine, QA provides residual activity keeping the surface sanitized for a limited time. It works against hard water although QA itself is not corrosive.

Sanitizers react differently depending on the surface. Plastic, glass, metal, and wood may require different chemicals to properly sanitize. For food environments, this may not be as important. It is critical to understand the microorganisms that thrive in your environment to prepare proper sanitization procedures. For example, if you have a biofilm with listeria, then your iodine sanitizer may not be enough if the film is not soaked for an adequate time. In that case, QA could be used. Send environmental samples to labs in order to sanitize properly.

Sampling For Lab Tests

Listeria is unique in that contaminated foods appear and taste normal. Because of this, environmental monitoring should be a part of every facility procedures, along with a cleaning and sanitizing program. Swab sample collection will keep your facility safe. Samples will identify listeria and other pathogens.

Once you know what pathogens live in your environment, you will be able to use the right sanitizers to protect your customers.

Environmental sampling kits are designed to increase sample count through their large, foam-tipped swabs. In all kits, a swab is secured to the screw-cap in leak-resistant tubes. To test, remove the swab and wipe the sample area while rotating the swab. Return the swab to the tube and secure the cap. Laboratory analysis should be completed within 4 hours. Samples can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours at 35-39 degrees fahrenheit or 2-4 degrees celsius.

To prevent sample sanitizer contamination, sampling swabs come pre-moistened with neutralizing solutions. Neutralizing solutions can interact with microorganisms, potentially harming the pathogens you hope to test. To prevent this, your swab needs to be tailored to your environment. Contact our customer service if you need advice on which swab is best for you.

Food Safety and Surface Sanitation Tips

Food Safety and Surface Sanitation Tips

Basic Food Safety Tips: 5 Minute Crash Course

Food Handling Safety. Maintaining a safe and clean work environment is critical in preventing foodborne illness. Bacteria and other harmful elements can grow on dirty surfaces and contaminate food.

 

A work area that looks clean should not be considered a sanitized environment. As a food handler or restaurant owner, make sure that your food handling meets sanitation standards. And that you are delivering safe-to-eat food to customers.

Food can become contaminated at any stage during preparation, distribution, and production. Every individual along the production chain should be equipped and trained in food safety. Unfortunately, most of the food handling facilities (such as restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, institutional cafeteria, etc.) do not give due attention to sanitation. This is why a great majority of people experience foodborne diseases.

Why is food safety important?

According to World Health Organization, more than 200 diseases spread through food. This fact highlights the importance of making sure the food we consume is not contaminated. Such contaminated can be harmful chemicals toxins, parasites, viruses, and bacteria. To improve the situation, WHO built the Five Keys to safer food. This helps countries promote safe food handling practices and procedures. And educates people associated with the food industry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million Americans fall prey to foodborne illness annually. Restaurants and other places  food is processed or handled have an obligation to ensure consumers are protected against foodborne health issues. It can take only one incident to tarnish your brand.

Food safety tips and basics

There are 4 basic principles of food safety: clean, separate, cook, and chill. Use food service wipes to clean anything that comes into contact with food, or is a food contact surface. Separate raw meat and seafood from cooked items to prevent cross-contamination. Preparing various food items, such as meat and poultry, at an optimal temperature also helps to kill pathogens. Besides that, refrigerate food promptly.

Purell Professional Surface Disinfectant Spray
Purell Professional Surface Disinfectant Spray

How to improve food safety

How can you establish food-safety practices without spending too much money and time? The following are some of precautionary measures  you can consider and put in place for enhanced food safety:

  • Reduce the risk of non-compliance from workers throughout the food handling system.
  • Simplify sanitation practices by adopting easy-to-use sanitizing food equipment.
  • Proper food handling and sanitation (consistent cleaning of food contact surfaces with all-encompassing products such as quat disinfectant cleaners)
  • Dry hands with a clean towel, disposable paper towel or food service wipes
  • Instruct your workers to wear and change disposable food gloves frequently
  • Ensure supply chain compliance with recommended food-safety practices.
  • Always use recommended and approved products to ensure food contact surface sanitation.

Polyethylene Food Service and Handling GlovesPolyethylene Food Service and Handling Gloves

DuraSkin Blue Vinyl Gloves, Powder-Free
DuraSkin Blue Vinyl Gloves, Powder-Free

Personal hygiene and affordable solutions

Apart from training  programs, provide employees with enough facilities and sanitation products to improve your sanitary conditions. Food service wipes, for example, are an inexpensive and valuable sanitation item.

Help your staff improve hygiene without doing anything complex or difficult. Use polyester towels made to ensure food contact surface sanitation. Get food service towels, Quaternary Disinfectant Cleaners, and other proven food safety products in bulk. Better prepare your facility to meet sanitation requirements.

Chix Medium-Duty Foodservice Towels with Microban
Chix Medium-Duty Foodservice Towels with Microban

Personal hygiene is especially important for food handlers and food servers. Employees with infected sores or cuts should not be allowed to prepare or serve food.

Employees who have anything to do with food or food contact surfaces must be given training so that they can understand the idea of personal or environmental hygiene. Food handlers are people who manufacture, prepare, process, deliver, transport or serve food. Even people who clean equipment and premises should be aware of sanitation and cleanliness.

Clorox Pro Quaternary Disinfectant Cleaner
Clorox Pro Quaternary Disinfectant Cleaner

The impact of sanitation

The significance of food workplace sanitation goes beyond regulatory actions. Cleaning activities must done in a manner that will not harm workers.

There are some sanitation tasks that require staff to clean potentially dangerous equipment. But, having a proper sanitation apparel and safety gear can improve the productivity of your food business.

Conclusion

Food safety has become a vital global public health issue as consumers suffer from many foodborne diseases. Health concerns from foodborne pathogens make it mandatory for the food industry to take actions to mitigate the situation.

Regulatory authorities and government agencies worldwide are putting their efforts to enhance food safety so that no one suffers following the consumption of food items.

Start improving food sanitation conditions at your facility. Provide employees with simple and affordable solutions. Use food service wipes, food gloves, and disinfectant cleaners.

Keep your restaurant’s reputation intact and keep customers coming back. Put in place recommended food safety practices and stock approved food handling products. Prepare your employees to both prevent and react to food safety issues.

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Practice good food safety habits. Improve the quality of your food handling processes, and ensure customer satisfaction. Browse through our food safety products to find what suits your business. Or get in touch via phone or online chat.

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