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Food Safety at MTKO

Food safety is a priority at Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach. Our hunger relief volunteers are asked to follow safe food handling procedures to help us maintain a safe and clean kitchen. Please contact our Kitchen Manager, Sydne Wirrick-Knox, at 402-817-0622 or sydne.wirrick-knox@mtkserves.org if you have any questions or concerns.

Chemical & Physical Contaminates: What are they & how to prevent them?

Chemical contamination comes from cleaners, sanitizers, polishes, machine lubricants, pesticides, deodorizers, first-aid products, and health and beauty products such as hand lotions and hairsprays. Certain types of kitchenware and equipment also can be risks for chemical contamination. These include items made from pewter, copper, zinc, and some types of painted pottery. Symptoms vary depending on the chemical consumed. Most illness occur within minutes and vomiting and diarrhea are typical. If an illness is suspected, call 911. Prevention:  Purchase chemicals from approved suppliers; store chemical away from prep areas, food-storage areas and service areas; use chemicals for their intended use and follow directions; handle food with equipment and utensils approved for food service.

Physical contamination is caused by common objects that can get into the food (like the bread bag ties I see all over the kitchen). These items include metal shavings from cans, wood, fingernails, staples, bandages, glass, jewelry, dirt, and naturally occurring objects such as fruit pits and bones. Symptoms may be mild to fatal including cuts, dental damage, and choking. Bleeding and pain may be the most outward symptom. Prevention includes purchasing food from approved suppliers; closely inspecting the food you prepare, taking steps to make sure no physical contaminants can get into the food; and making sure food handlers practice good personal hygiene. 

 

How Foodborne Illnesses Occur:

Unsafe food is usually the result of contamination, which is the presence of harmful substances in food. Contaminants are divided into three categories: Biological, Chemical and Physical. Each of these contaminants is a danger to food safety. However, biological contaminates are responsible for most foodborne illness .

How does food become unsafe? These are the five most common food-handling mistakes, or risk factors, that can cause a foodborne illness.

1. Purchasing food from unsafe sources
2. Failing to cook food correctly
3. Holding food at incorrect temperatures
4. Using contaminated equipment
5. Practicing poor personal hygiene

Most contaminants cause foodborne illness; others can result in physical injury. Contaminants come from a variety of places, and many are found in the animals we use for food; others come from the air, contaminated water and dirt; some from chemicals used in kitchen operations; and others occur naturally in food. Food can be contaminated on purpose, but most food contamination happens accidentally. Most contaminants get into food and onto food-contact surfaces because of the way that people handle them.

Biological Contaminants: Pathogens are the greatest threat to food safety. They include certain viruses, parasites, fungi, and bacteria. Some plants, mushrooms, and seafood that carry harmful toxins (poisons) are also included in this group. Of the 40 different kinds of pathogens, there are six that the FDA calls the Big Six. Most of the Big Six will sound very familiar to you: Shigella, Salmonella Typhi, Nontyphoidal Salmonella, E. coli, Hepatitis A, and Norovirus.

Bacteria can be found almost everywhere and cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted.  Bacteria need six conditions to grow:

· Food - Most bacteria need nutrients to survive.

· Acidity - Bacteria grow best in food that contains little or no acid.

· Temperature - Bacteria grow rapidly between 41° F and 135° F. This is known as the temperature danger zone. Bacteria growth is limited when food is held above or below the temperature danger zone.

· Time - Bacteria need time to grow.  The more time bacteria spend in the temperature danger zone, the more opportunity they have to grow to unsafe levels.

· Oxygen - Some bacteria need oxygen to grow.  Others grow when oxygen is not there.

· Moisture - Bacteria grow well in food with high levels of moisture.

The only conditions that can usually be controlled in a kitchen are temperature and time.  To control temperature you must keep food out of the temperature danger zone (41° F and 135° F).  To control time you must limit how long food spends in the temperature danger zone.

 

Viruses all share some basic characteristics:

· Location - Viruses are carried by humans and animals.  They require a living host to grow.

· Sources - People can get viruses from food, water, or any contaminated surface.

· Destruction - Viruses are not destroyed by normal cooking temperatures.  That is why it is important to practice good personal hygiene  when handling food and food-contact surfaces. 

 

Parasites share some basic characteristics:

· Location - Parasites require a host to live and reproduce.

· Sources - Parasites are commonly associated with seafood, wild game, and food processed with contaminated water, such as produce.

· Prevention - The most important way to prevent foodborne illnesses from parasites is to purchase food from approved, reputable supplies.  Cooking food to required minimum internal temperatures is also important.

Fungi - include yeasts, molds, and mushrooms.  Some molds and mushrooms produce toxins that cause food borne illness.  Throw out all moldy food unless the mold is a natural part of the food.