Douglas Powell of the Food Safety Network recently addressed a crowd of about 50 people at a recent Canadian Federation of University Women-sponsored meeting, in which he talked about basic hygiene and good and bad practices in the food production/preparation and fast food service industries. Powell is an associate professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph and director of the Food Safety Network.
There are a host of dangerous food-borne bacteria and illnesses that are out there, from E. coli to mad cow to salmonella, but are for the most part preventable. Doug found that many people had misconceptions about the safety of what they eat and how to properly prepare it.
He said a nasty and potentially deadly illness that could be lurking in your refrigerator or on the kitchen countertop is listeriosis, more commonly called listeria. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems. Listeria is found in soil and water. The bacterium has been found in a variety of raw foods, such as uncooked meats and vegetables, as well as in processed foods that become contaminated after processing, such as soft cheeses and cold cuts at the deli counter. Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking; however, in certain ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and deli meats, contamination may occur after cooking but before packaging.
Regular handwashing as an easy, effective disease prevention tool is a constant refrain from medical and health department officials. Doug said it’s estimated that if everyone washed their hands properly, for 20 seconds, we could reduce incidence of illness by 25 per cent. At production/handling facilities like farms and restaurants, he said there should be paper towels, not cloth towels, hand pump soap, not bar soap, and foodstuffs stored in plastic, not wooden, crates, to reduce the incidence of cross-contamination.