Ecoli warning

What is E. Coli O157?

E. Coli O157 – What Is It & Why Do You Need To Be Aware Of It?


Escherichia coli, or E. coli for short, is a type of bacteria that lives in the intestines and is a normal part of the intestinal flora of humans and of animals. There are various strains of E. coli, most of which are innocuous (such as E.coli K-12) some types, however, can make you very ill indeed.

The main strain of E. Coli associated with human disease in the UK is E. coli O157. Symptoms of which commonly include severe abdominal and pain bloody diarrhoea. However, in more serious cases, E. coli O157 can cause kidney failure and even death! E. coli O157 produces a toxin (poison) called ‘Shiga toxin’.  There are also other types of Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) to be aware of, some of which can make you just as ill as E. coli O157.

One of the most severe complications associated with E. coli poisoning is something called: ‘Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome’ (HUS). This is an infection that produces toxic substances which literally destroy red blood cells, which in turn, cause damage to the kidneys. HUS will typically require intensive care, kidney dialysis, and sometimes transfusions.

Although E. Coli O157 can multiply in food, it has a very low infective dose involving less than 100 bacteria. This is why food handlers must be so very careful and fully aware of the dangers! The main food vehicles associated with E-coli O157 are undercooked meat products, especially burgers and minced beef products. Other foods implicated include raw (unpasteurised) milk and soft cheeses made with unpasteurised milk. It is worth noting that E. Coli O157 can grow at a pH of 4.4, hence the reason why apple juice has also been implicated. E.coli O157 is relatively tolerant of acidic conditions and can also survive freezing, although numbers do start to decline at circa 4°C.

1996 saw the worst outbreak of E.coli 0157 ever recorded in Scotland; the outbreak, which was traced back to a butcher’s shop in Wishaw, resulted in 21 deaths, most victims being over 69 years of age.

E.coli, like most pathogens, can simply be destroyed by normal effective cooking. As a food handler you make sure that you:

  • Wash your hands always and often throughout the day
  • Ensure that you handle high-risk, ready-to-eat foods as little and as carefully as possible
  • Always segregate and keep completely separate raw and cooked foods
  • Have separate preparation areas for raw and cooked food
  • Clean and disinfect ‘as you go’.
  • Cook food properly (>75°C)

effective hand washing

The importance of effective handwashing

Washing Your Hands Effectively

It is absolutely imperative that food handlers wash their hand frequently throughout the working day. This is one of the most simple, yet absolutely essential principles of food safety. There can potentially be millions of bacteria on your hands at any one time! Bacteria are measured in micrometres (µm). There are 1000 µm in 1 millimetre (mm). The average spherical bacterium measures on average around 1µm in diameter. Therefore, bacteria are far too small to be seen by the naked eye. Some of these are harmful (pathogens) and when they are transferred onto food, they can cause food poisoning.

Bacteria, however, can be eliminated with a simple an effective hand washing technique:

  1. Wet hands thoroughly
  2. Use liquid soap
  3. Rub hands vigorously – especially the nails, fingertips and thumbs (it is the vigour in handwashing which is effective (this should take at least 40 seconds – 1 minute)
  4. Rinse hands thoroughly
  5. Dry hands completely using a paper towel
  6. Turn the tap off using the paper towel!
  7. Bin the towel!

Handwashing:  – when to wash your hands – keeping your hands clean and the food safe!

Before entering a food room or handling food

After using the toilet

After taking a break, eating or smoking

After handling raw food

Before handling cooked, ready-to-eat food

After handling a dressing or changing a waterproof plaster

After handling boxes and food packaging

After handling waste or refuse

After cleaning or using cleaning chemicals

After coughing, sneezing or touching any other part of your body

After dealing with someone who is ill

After handling known allergens

Whilst such an obvious point to make, nevertheless, it is a very important one: Get into the habit of washing your hands correctly, often and always. Knowledge of hand hygiene and handwashing per se, without practice, is useless and at worst, dangerous! It’s a sad fact that many cases of food poisoning could have been avoided if the food handlers involved would have simply washed their hands!

Food Safety audit

10 tips for an Effective Food Safety Audit

How To Do An Effective Food Safety Audit

There are many benefits of carrying out regular audits, which include; honest self-assessment, giving feedback to management and identifying whether the systems, processes and procedures in place are working and meet the required objectives.  Audits should be proactive rather than reactive, and can identify potential future problems before they occur. Whether you are responsible for internal audits of your food premises, a third party auditor, or verifying HACCP and Food Safety Management Systems, here are some practical tips for carrying out an effective audit.

  1. Identify and ensure the competency of the auditor. The auditor / inspector should be highly knowledgeable and competent in food safety and HACCP (or the specific area which is to be audited). The auditor must be in full agreement about what is to be covered and the standards and set criteria thereof. This applies to internal as well as external audits.
  1. Before carrying out an audit it is essential to plan ahead! It has been said many times: “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Planning is vital to a successful and effective audit. As well as establishing the clear aims and objectives of the inspection, planning should take into account practical things like; the size and complexity of the business, the amount of travelling involved, site restrictions (such as opening times etc.), level of in-house expertise and any language barriers of staff.
  1. Communication is an integral part of carrying out an audit. It is important that the auditor communicates clearly and concisely. Be polite, affable, and professional. Don’t be overly familiar or effusive, but at the same time do not be too serious or austere. When verbally questioning staff and auditees make use of open, leading, and sympathetic questioning techniques. A good auditor will not just check, but will watch, listen, and ask questions. When talking to employees do not become side-tracked or distracted. While some ‘small talk’ is acceptable and sometimes necessary, always stick to the point.
  1. The auditor should be impartial, fair and objective, and act with integrity.
  1. Be methodical and systematic. Carry out the audit in a coherent manner. For example, the auditor should go through what they are auditing in a logical order from the beginning to the end. It’s more than merely being guided through mechanically by the audit checklist! It’s really about linking things together and checking the process meets the procedure, and the corresponding documentation. Always take notes as you go, whether written or on a smartphone, iPad or tablet.
  1. The auditor should take photographs as and when necessary – but only of what is relevant to the audit. What can’t speak can’t lie! Again, best on a smaller device such as an iPad or smartphone, rather than a large camera. We tend to use the iPhone 6s, which are discreet and have a good built in camera.
  1. If an audit is carried out at a busy time – don’t get in the way and definitely do not spend time interviewing people. Most of the time should be spent observing working practices. Also, do not stay longer than necessary. As soon as the objectives have been met you should depart. On the other hand, never leave until you have made sufficient judgement and your outcomes have been achieved.
  1. It is fundamental that auditors keep up to date with latest industry trends, scientific and epidemiological research and information. For example, within the context of a food business, the threat of Campylobacter in raw chicken is a greater problem today than salmonella. Advice may change as understanding increases.
  1. Always write up the audit report in a timely manner. This should be as close to the event as possible. Ensure that you write concisely and clearly. Avoid emotive or ‘flowery’ language. Write as dispassionately as possible. Opinions are fine, as long as they can be substantiated and are pertinent; however, reports should be written on fact and backed up by quantifiable and empirical evidence. Give clear recommendations and prioritised timescales which are practical, measurable, and achievable. Actions which need addressing immediately or within a few days should be dealt with and remedied at the time of visit, following verbal advice. However, it’s still good practice to record this in your report.
  1. When giving recommendations, it is very important that the auditor clearly distinguishes between recommendations based on best practice and legal requirements. Inexperienced auditors often get the two confused!

To learn more about being an effective auditor, contact us , and we’ll also let you have details of the next Level 3 Auditing and Inspection Skills training course that we are running in your area.

thawing the christmas turkey

Seven Safety Tips for Defrosting Your Turkey this Christmas

How To Safely Defrost A Turkey

The build-up to the festive period has begun once more, and with it comes the prospect of lots of good food, family fun, and social gatherings with friends.

Christmas is definitely one of the most wonderful times of the year – so don’t ruin it by giving your guests or yourself food poisoning! Cases of food poisoning tend to significantly rise over the festive period. During this period it is more likely you will be cooking for several generations of people, many of whom would fall into the ‘risk group’ of people who are more susceptible to food poisoning and more likely to die as a result. We must be particularly careful when preparing food for young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and all those people who are immunocompromised.

For the majority of us, turkey will feature heavily on our Christmas menu; but improper or inadequate defrosting of frozen poultry provides a way for pathogenic bacteria to spread, leaving you with a turkey dinner that may look and taste delightful, but containing an invisible risk that can’t be detected by your senses.

There is nothing wrong in using frozen turkey, however, if you are, then it’s essential that you follow these 7 safety guidelines:

  1. Always purchase your turkey from a reputable retailer or supplier.
  1. Always follow the specific defrosting instructions on the label.
  1. Never wash your turkey, either when still frozen or when defrosted, as this can spread harmful bacteria around your kitchen by splashing!
  1. Always plan ahead! When defrosting raw turkey it is always best to thaw in the refrigerator at least 24 hours before it is to be cooked. It’s worth noting that large turkeys (around 25lbs) can take up to 48 hours to defrost. During thawing, ensure that the turkey is covered and placed in a deep container in the bottom of the refrigerator completely separated from other food, particularly ready to eat food. This will prevent blood or juices dripping down onto other food stored in the same fridge. If you don’t have the fridge space to defrost, then find some other very cool but hygienic place. Remember: Cold temperatures slow down the multiplication of pathogens on food.
  1. Always make sure that your turkey is defrosted thoroughly prior to cooking. If not, it will probably lead to uneven cooking which in turn will cause harmful bacteria to survive the cooking process.
  1. Once defrosted, keep the turkey stored in the bottom of your fridge until it is ready to cook. Leaving in the kitchen at room temperature may significantly increase the risk of food poisoning!
  1. You must always wash your hands thoroughly both before and immediately after handling the turkey, ensuring that all surfaces that have come into contact with the raw meat are thoroughly cleaned using a propriety sanitizer.


In recent years, goose has made a comeback on the Christmas menu. If you are using goose instead of turkey this Christmas, the above rules would still apply.


Merry Christmas!

Public Speaking

Public Speaking Skills

It has been said that “glossophobia”, or the fear of speaking in public, is the most common of all phobias! Many people with a fear of public speaking avoid public speaking altogether at all costs. Some on the other hand, may ‘grit their teeth’ and stoically persevere through such situations, with shaking hands and a quivering voice. This course has been designed to enable candidates to overcome their fears and increase confidence and enjoyment of public speaking.

This course covers basic techniques on how to effectively plan and prepare your presentation or speech, knowing your audience and building a rapport with them, annunciation, speech and body language, concisely communicating ideas and answering impromptu questions.

This course is aimed at anyone wants to be more effective and more accomplished public speaker, and will provide a solid foundation on which to build.

Duration of course: 1 day

For more details, please contact a member of our training team.

 Office: 01233 822201

 Mobile: 07513022881

Time Management

Time Management

In a fast-paced society and in an increasingly demanding working environment, many people are starting to feel that there are simply not enough hours in the day to achieve all that needs to be done within the time available! We at CaterSafe understand the pressures staff are under; particularly within the Hospitality and Catering industry. We can help you with this very practical, down-to-earth one day course, which is specifically aimed at those who are seeking to manage their time more skilfully and effectively. This course will identify ways in which much time is wasted and from there provide candidates with tools to think clearly and concisely about their time along with practical solutions and tangible steps on how to organise and manage their precious time a lot more effectively.
This course is aimed at anyone who is feeling the pressure and wants to be more effective in their role. This course is suitable for managers and staff members alike.

Duration of course: 1 day

For more details, please contact a member of our training team.

 Office: 01233 822201

 Mobile: 07513022881