WJEC Level 3 Certificate in Food Science and Nutrition

1 6 Micro-organisms and food safety Introduction Understanding food safety and hygiene is essential to anyone who handles food, either in the home, or in a food business. Food must be protected against spoilage and contamination so that it does not cause the people who eat it to become ill with food poisoning . Food safety and hygiene involves all the processes and practices that are required to ensure that food remains safe to eat from the time it is harvested or slaughtered, during processing, transport, packaging, storage, handling, retail (selling), preparation and cooking, to the time it is eaten. In this chapter, you will learn about the causes of food spoilage and food poisoning, the foods that are most likely to cause food poisoning and the implications it has for consumers and businesses. Micro-organisms AC 1.4 Micro-organisms are tiny forms of life, both plants and animals. There are three groups: bacteria, moulds and yeasts. Many are unicellular (single celled) and can only be viewed under a microscope. They are often collectively referred to as microbes. Micro-organisms are found in many different places: soil, water, sewage, dust, dirt, on surfaces and equipment, in the air, in and on people, animals, birds and insects; on clothing, in food and food packaging and in rubbish. Therefore, due to their small size and widespread existence, it is very easy for them to spoil foods and cause food poisoning, if the conditions that enable them to grow and multiply are optimum (most favourable – sometimes written as ‘optimal’). Some micro-organisms cause food poisoning and are known as pathogenic (harmful) micro-organisms ( pathogens ). Bacteria are responsible for most food spoilage and food poisoning. Yeast and moulds can also cause food spoilage and food poisoning when the conditions for bacteria are not optimum. Many non-pathogenic micro-organisms are used in the production of a variety of foods: ⦁ Bacteria are involved in the production of, e.g., cheese, yogurt, cocoa /chocolate, coffee, vinegar, beer, wine, cider, spirits, fish sauce, buttermilk, sauerkraut, soured cream Section 1: Food Safety (LO1: Understand the importance of food safety) (AC 1.4) Contamination – the addition of something to food that is harmful to health if the food is eaten Food poisoning – an unpleasant and potentially severe illness caused by eating food that is either contaminated or naturally poisonous Pathogen – a micro-organism that causes harm to humans Spoilage – when food has become unpalatable, unfit and unsafe to eat Key terms Section 1: Food Safety (LO1)