Risk of Legionella on re-opening your business

When businesses finally get to re-open their doors, another health issue is a real risk – Legionnaires disease.

What is Legionnaires disease?

Legionella bacteria are the cause of legionellosis, better known as Legionnaires Disease.  Legionnaires disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia. It can be contracted when a person breathes in contaminated tiny water droplets. Anyone can contract Legionnaires disease, but the elderly, smokers, alcoholics and those with cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory or kidney disease are at more risk. In February 2020, a 5 star hotel in Kerry was sued after a guest contracted the disease whilst using the spa facilities.

How can Legionella end up in the water supply?

Legionella bacteria are found in low numbers in lakes, rivers and ground water. As a result, it is difficult to prevent Legionella bacteria entering man-made water systems. In low numbers the bacteria are generally considered harmless. With the correct conditions, for example, warm water, the presence of micro-organisms and nutrients in the water or materials such as rust, the bacteria can grow and multiply to high levels which increase the risk of contamination. They are likely to grow where water has become stagnant or a where there is a low water flow. With a lot of business closed over the last number of weeks this could be ideal conditions for legionella to grow. Systems and equipment with reduced or no use over a period of time can be at risk.

 What businesses could be affected?

Every business needs to know about Legionella as ignorance could lead to potential deaths or serious illness. At particular risk are:

·        Warm/ stagnant water supply

·        Hot and cold water systems including taps and showers in public and private buildings

·        Air conditioning units

·        Cooling towers

·        Spa and swimming pools

·        Water fountains,

·        Sprinkler systems

·        Nebulisers.

How can you help prevent its occurrence?

For optimum growth of the bacteria, a temperature of 20 – 45°C is required. Taking this into account you should ensure the cold water system is operating at a temp of less than 20°C, and the hot water system is always above 45°C. Temperatures > 60°C kill the bacteria.

·        Prevent favourable temperatures and conditions for bacterial growth. Keep out of 20-45 °C temp range.

·        Prevent water stagnation – If you have access to your business run all taps, showers, flush toilets etc on a weekly basis.

·        Flush hot and cold water through all points of use to remove stagnant water. Care should be taken to minimise splashing and aerosol generation during flushing.

 What to do prior to re-opening your premises?

If your water systems have been out of use for a significant time, in a lot of cases, they cannot simply be used straight away. The system may require thorough flushing, cleaning and disinfection prior to return to use. Risk assessment review and water testing should also be considered as part of the recommissioning plan. The services of a competent person may be required to provide further advice.

To ensure your water is free from Legionella you can take a water sample and send it to a lab for testing. This will confirm your water is safe and free from the bacteria.

I hope this article has given you some useful information in relation to Legionella. If you would like to find out more, check out the links below.

https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/legionellosis/guidance/nationalguidelinesforthecontroloflegionellosisinireland/Chapter%205%20Legionella%20Prevention%20and%20Control.pdf

https://www.hsa.ie/eng/Publications_and_Forms/Publications/Chemical_and_Hazardous_Substances/Legionaires_Disease.pdf

https://www.escmid.org/fileadmin/src/media/PDFs/3Research_Projects/ESGLI/COVId_buidling_water_system_guidance_27_3_20_v4_DS_pk.pdf

https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/sites/portal/files/documents/Legionella%20GuidelinesFinal%20updated%20for%20ECDC%20corrections.pdf

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/legionellosis

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Food Safety for Christmas Baking

With Christmas cake and pudding baking in full swing, I have written a blog on the risks of consuming raw mixtures. Did your mother let you lick the spoon? Mine did, and its one tradition I won’t be passing on to my daughter.

Did you know unbaked ingredients such as dough, batter and Xmas cake mixture should not be consumed. Raw eggs can pose a risk of Salmonella and there have been many cases where E.Coli  outbreaks have led back to flour. E-coli and Salmonella will be destroyed on effective cooking. Salmonella and E.coli are not a treat…no licking spoons or the beaters this holiday season.

 

Here are some tips for handling raw baked goods safely

  1. Wash hands (20 seconds), work surfaces and utensils thoroughly after contact with flour and raw dough products.
  2. Do not give play dough made with raw flour to children.
  3. Take care to clean up any flour spillages (if children are ‘helping’, flour is most likely to be scattered half way across the kitchen).
  4. Keep raw, unbaked food away from other foods to avoid cross-contamination
  5. Follow storage instructions of chilled ingredients and refrigerate as soon as possible after purchase.
  6. Follow manufacturers’ cooking instructions, or recipe guidelines when baking. Cooking food at the right temperature/time will ensure any harmful bacteria are killed.

Enjoy your Christmas baking ????, get the kids involved and make a mess.

Just remember to say no to raw dough!

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7 Tips to Ensuring Food Safety at Outdoor Events

Summer is in full swing (glorious sunshine forecast for most of the country!). What’s not to love about the summer and spending more time outdoors. I always look forward to the wonderful array of markets, music, food and drink festivals, all which have a fabulous selection of foods to delight the taste buds, although things are greatly paired backed this year due to Covid ☹

Catering at an outdoor event is a high-risk activity and will always carry with it the possibility of causing food poisoning to a large number of people.

Poor and careless hygiene practices, and the warmer weather in summer, can create ideal conditions for bacteria such as Salmonella and E.coli to multiply to unsafe levels in food.

Sometimes the usual safety controls in a kitchen, such as handwashing facilities and refrigeration may be limited at outdoor events. This makes it even more important for you to be prepared and follow food safety tips.

In this blog I will go through some key points, producers/stall holders need to consider to ensure they continue to comply with food hygiene legislation.

1.      Transporting food

  • Vehicles and containers used to transport food must be kept clean and in good repair.
  • Food must be wrapped, covered or placed in sealed containers.
  • Ready-to-eat foods must be kept separate from raw foods to prevent cross- contamination.
  • Refrigerated vehicles may be necessary if high risk foods are sold to ensure that the cold chain is maintained throughout delivery and storage.

2.      Storage & Display

  • Careful control of food temperatures is one of the most important ways of reducing the risk of food poisoning.

Keep food out of the danger zone (5 to 63°C), bacteria grows best within this range.

  • Hot foods must be stored and maintained at ≥63°C. Foods which are reheated at the stall must be heated to a core temperature of ≥70°C.
  • Use a calibrated thermometer to ensure food is adequately cooked, and to check cold storage temperatures. Make sure that you use a probe wipe to sanitise the thermometer before and after use, to prevent cross-contamination.
  • High risk foods must be kept separate from raw products.
  • The stall must be situated so that the risk of cross contamination by dirt, animals or other sources of contamination, is minimised. Food should be stored at least 450 mm off the ground.
  • Samples should be displayed in small portions and replaced or topped up when required. Samples should be offered in single portion disposal containers or be supplied with cocktail sticks, disposable cutlery, tongs or other means to minimise the risk of contamination.

3.     Facilities for cleaning equipment

  • Suitable cleaning equipment and materials must be provided at the food stall to clean what is required to ensure food safety while in operation at the site.
  • Where utensil/equipment washing is necessary, a sink unit of adequate size with a supply of ‘running’ hot and cold water must be provided or easily accessible. This can be achieved by bringing enough water or having access to a supply. The water must be of potable quality.

4.      Handwashing Facilities

  • A wash-hand basin with ‘running’ hot and cold water or warm water, with soap and disposable towels are required where there is exposed high-risk food.
  • For low-risk activities, alternative means of cleaning hands such as detergent and antiseptic wipes, may be acceptable. Note – alcohol hand disinfecting gel or wipes are only effective when used on physically clean hands, and is not suitable for hands which are likely to become soiled during the course of trading.

5.     Personal Hygiene

A high degree of personal hygiene must be practiced by staff handling foods on stalls.

  • Wash your hands before handling food, and after using the toilet or after handling raw foods or waste.
  • Wear clean clothing, footwear and over clothing.
  • Use separate aprons when handling raw foods and cooked/ready to eat foods – colour coded are the best idea.
  • Ensure cuts and sores are covered with a coloured waterproof dressing.
  • Avoid unnecessary handling of food, and never cough or sneeze over food.
  • Do not smoke or eat near food.
  • If you have an illness that could be transmitted through food, e.g. sickness and diarrhoea, you should not be working in a food handling environment.

6. Waste Disposal

  • A suitable number and type of refuse bins must be provided. They must be provided with tight-fitting lids. They must be easy to clean. Bin liners should be used where possible.
  • Bins may be required for customer use at the food stall. Bins must be emptied during trading if necessary, and refuse must be properly disposed of after trading.
  • Bins must be segregated from food storage during transport.

7. Training

  • All food handlers, including seasonal and part-time staff, must be adequately supervised, instructed and/or trained in food hygiene matters to allow them to do their job safely.

Industry guides to good hygiene practice were developed by the National Standards Authority of Ireland as an agreed interpretation of the hygiene rules as provided for in Regulation (EC) No 852/2004. These include I.S. 340: Hygiene in the Catering Sector and I.S. 341: Hygiene in Retail and Wholesaling which may be followed. Check out these standards for more detailed information.

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