Food poisoning and hygiene

Infections, poisoning, poisoning.

It must first be able to distinguish between food-borne infections, food poisoning (or poisoning), and poisonings.

The food infection is the disease caused by the presence in the food of the only infectious agent.

 The poisoning (or poisoning) foods are a group of acute gastrointestinal character syndromes caused by taking food containing toxins produced by certain microorganisms.

The food poisoning is caused by poisons, ie substances cha cause more or less serious alterations of the human body; poisoning can also cause death.


The danger of infections and food poisoning is eliminated curing and guaranteeing the hygiene for the whole of the food chain.

The matter regarding hygiene is of course governed by laws, of which the most important is the Legislative Decree no. 155/97, under which all the articles, fittings and equipment that come into contact with food are to be maintained clean, and designed and constructed in a material which, if maintained in good condition and subjected to regular maintenance, make minimum the risks of contamination.

Today, technology allows to operate in conditions of absolute hygiene; some special processing steps can be conducted even in an aseptic way (in general, the term asepsis is meant the complete absence of pathogenic microorganisms and non-pathogenic as a result of sterilization).


Obviously, this is useless if then the final consumer does not follow the normal hygiene practices (antisepsis), sometimes because of an incorrect complete understanding of prophylactic rules (in general, the term prophylaxis is the set of policies and measures that serve to prevent the occurrence of infectious diseases and to prevent them from spreading).

Forms of intoxication.

The main staphylococcal food poisoning is the poisoning, salmonella, botulinum poisoning (botulism), the coliforms, streptococci and Clostridium perfringens.

Short description

Staphylococcal toxic infections

Staphylococcal toxic infections: prophylaxis consists in observing the most scrupulous hygiene standards in food preparation, the screening of staff working on and selling groceries.


Salmonellosis: the problem is preventive health, particularly in slaughterhouses, milk collection centers, etc; individual prevention is based on cooking food (though the heat can avoid infection by destroying germs, but not the action of the toxin, which is heat-resistant).

Botulinum poisoning.

Botulinum poisoning: due to botulinum, a spore-forming microbes in itself not overly dangerous, because it is ill-suited to internal conditions of the body, but that processes a very active toxin and dangerous even in very small doses.

And 'more common in animal products sausages (sausages), but generally also in the food, industrial or preserves (less often, and for reasons of expired product) that preserves produced by hand or at home (more often!); wary of those boxes with bulging bottom, or that, once opened, give rise to development of gas and / or to the characteristic odor of butyric acid. Remedies: sterilizing the containers and the foodstuff (the latter must boil for at least 15 minutes); brine (salt> 6%), under vinegar (vinegar> 3%), sugar solutions, jams (sugar> 60%).

Coliforms, streptococci, Clostridium perfringens

Germs such as coliforms, streptococci and Clostridium perfringens, under certain conditions, may develop because of toxins enteropathy.


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The food storage

Preservation techniques

As previously mentioned, the food substances are subject to alterations that modify the organoleptic and nutritional properties, making them harmful to the body.

The food preservation is based on methods and techniques that are intended to slow or block their natural process of alteration, taking under control or completely destroying the microbial load.

The microbial load, also called bacterial load, is represented by the number of micro-organisms present in 1 cubic centimeter, or 1 gram of food substance. The hygiene rules for each food substance indicate the tolerance limit of the dangerous bacteria charges for human life.


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The alterations

Causes: Biological; physico-chemical; contaminants; other

The food changes depend on natural or accidental modifications of their original character.

 Possible causes include:

  • biological causes
  • Causes physical and chemical
  • chemical or physical contaminants
  • Other agents

 Biological causes

 Biological causes: microorganisms, such as mold, bacteria, viruses; germs and their toxins; parasites such as tapeworm larvae, Ascaris eggs; enzymes, content is the same food and both within the human body.

Most of the food changes is due to biological causes. Foods that are more susceptible to changes are the most complete and richest acqua.Il milk is easily alterable because it has a water content of about 88%, and it is well known that water is the natural habitat of most wall of the microorganisms, which in it have the ability to rapidly multiply. In addition, the milk is also a complete food, and thus represents an ideal breeding ground for the microbial load. perishable foods are fresh butchered meats, fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables.

Causes physical and chemical

 Physical causes and natural chemical (heat, light, water, air); high temperature can transform the structure of the substances, and between 10 ° and 60 ° the majority of microbes multiplies faster; the light can cause a discoloration; the water can to macerate the product; oxygen in the air due to oxidation, and the air, especially when dry, allows the evaporation of water from the food

Chemical or physical contaminants

  •  Chemical contaminants: pesticides (in agriculture), estrogen, antibiotics (in animal husbandry), industrial solvents, air pollutants (eg., lead, mercury), etc.
  • Physical contaminants: extraneous physical particles, incorporated or mixed to foods, such as broken glass, or plastic, or metals from incorrect packaging or machinery etc.

Other agents

 Other agents: for example, prion, the infectious protein particle that causes BSE (cow disease). Prion develops mainly in the spinal cord of the cervical spine, so the law (D.M., 16 October 2003) prohibits the sale of bovine animals to which the spine has not been removed. It is recent news of the decision taken by the Brussels Committee to raise to a minimum of 24 months the minimum age (12 months ago) for which it is compulsory to remove the spine from cattle during slaughter; So come back to our tables the Florentine steak!

The conservation techniques (which we will deal with right away) serve to eliminate or render these various agents inactive, without altering or modifying as little as possible the intrinsic properties of foods.


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Food additives


Definition - Features - Roles


Food additives offer considerable advantages, because they guarantee greater safety and hygiene of food products, their better conservation and presentation, as well as greater availability of them in all seasons; But, on the other hand, they are also of concern to the consumer, because not all are harmless.


Today the use of food additives is strictly regulated and subject to constant security checks.

Definition. Currently, are defined food additives those substances which are added in small quantities to the foods, to maintain its freshness and prevent its alterations, or to enhance the sensory characteristics, or to modify the taste and texture, or to more than one of the listed reasons.

Saying "in small amounts", we wish to emphasize the fact that strictly necessary to provide the minimum dose necessary to achieve the desired effect, without any danger to the health of the consumer.

In fact, the International Committees SCF and JECFA - headed by the World Health Organization (WHO) - based on its consideration of all available toxicological data, including surveys on humans and in animal models, evaluate and set out in each food additive ADI, "acceptable daily intake", that is, the amount of food additive that can be taken daily in the daily diet, even for the whole lifetime without risk.

The values ​​of the DGA are periodically updated according to the progress of technological knowledge.

There is no official list of food additives.

The permitted food additives are classified into different categories depending on their function and each has a specific name and an identification number preceded by the letter "E", which indicates the approval by the European Union.

For example, the series of E100 is attributed to the dyes, the E200 to preservatives, antioxidants and the E300 to E400 emulsifiers, thickeners and gelling agents.



Here are some of food additives normally added to foods:




Emulsifiers and thickeners




 Dyes (E100 series). Color is one of the main sensory characteristics and helps to ensure that a food is thoroughly accept or unwelcome. The dyes are used to add or restore color in a food, to enhance its visual appeal and meet the expectations of the consumer.

The industrial processing of peas and the preparation of jams, for example, may determine a loss of color that the dyes can be compensated. However, it remains unacceptable that these substances are used to mask or hide a poor quality.


 Preservatives (E200 series), that limit, retard or arrest the growth of microorganisms (eg. Bacteria, yeast, mold) that are in food, preventing spoilage or toxicity. They are used, for example, in bakery products, wine, cheese, salted meats in, in fruit juices and margarine.

Here are some examples of preservative: sulphites (E220-228), to prevent discolouration of the dried fruits and vegetables, the growth of bacteria in wine and fermented foods, some snacks and baked goods; nitrates and nitrites of sodium and potassium, from E249 to E252, used as preservatives in processed meat, for example frankfurter in, and to maintain product safety by preventing the growth of bacteria that produce botulinum ..



 Antioxidants (E300 series), such as vitamin C (in flour) and the 'citric acid E330 (to keep the color of the fruit and vegetables freshly cut), and many others.

Emulsifiers and thickeners

 Emulsifiers and thickeners (E400 series). The purpose of these food additives is to maintain a uniform consistency and prevent separation of ingredients in products such as margarine, ice cream, mayonnaise. Lecithin is one of the many emulsifiers. Thickeners (for example, gelatin or pectin) also increase the viscosity of food preparations.

other additives

 Other additives: saccharin (E954), aspartame (E951), 300 and 200 times sweeter than sugar, but with reduced caloric value (2.4 kcal / g.).

anti-caking agents (used to avoid the formation of lumps in powdered foods).

anti-foaming agents (which reduce foams, eg. in the cooking of hams).

Gas packaging (used for certain types of sealed packages, for example for the meat, fish, seafood, vegetables and prepared salads that are located in the refrigerated counter).


All foods treated with food additives must have on the packaging or on the tag (if sold in bulk) the sentence "containing E ..., E ...," followed by the names of the additives used and provided by the official nomenclature.

The standard larger on Food Additives is the D.M. February 27, 1996, n. 209 (the 209/96), "Regulation on the regulation of food additives allowed in the preparation and preservation of food substances" (in implementation of well-5 Community directives 94/34 / EC, 94/35 / EC, 94 / 36 / EC, 95/2 / EC, 95/31 / EC.), and updated by DM March 10, 2000, n. 183 (the 183/2000).

 All foods treated with food additives must have on the packaging or on the tag (if sold in bulk) the sentence "containing E ..., E ...," followed by the names of the additives used and provided by the official nomenclature.

The standard larger on Food Additives is the D.M. February 27, 1996, n. 209 (the 209/96), "Regulation on the regulation of food additives allowed in the preparation and preservation of food substances" (in implementation of well-5 Community directives 94/34 / EC, 94/35 / EC, 94 / 36 / EC, 95/2 / EC, 95/31 / EC.), and updated by DM March 10, 2000, n. 183 (the 183/2000).


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