Chemical:  Insecticides and cleaning compounds can accidentally find their way into foods. Physical includes such things as bits of glass, rodent hairs, nails and paint chips.  Careless food handling can mean that even an earring or a plastic bandage could fall into food and result in illness or injury. Biological contaminants account for the majority of food-borne illnesses.  These include natural occurring poisons, known as toxins, found in certain wild mushrooms, rhubarb leaves, green potatoes and other plants.  The predominant biological agent, however, are disease-causing microorganisms known as pathogens, which are responsible for up to 95% of all food-borne illnesses.  Microorganisms of many kinds are present virtually everywhere, and most are harmless, if not essential; only about 1% of microorganisms are actually pathogenic. 

Food-borne illnesses caused by biological contaminants fall into two subcategories:

intoxication and infection

Intoxication occurs when a person consumes food containing toxins from bacteria, molds or certain plant or animals.  Once in the body, these toxins act as poison.  Botulism is an example of intoxication. 

In the case of an infection, the food eaten by an individual contains large numbers of living pathogens.  These pathogens multiply in the body and generally attack the gastrointestinal lining. Salmonellosis is an example of infection.  Some food-borne illnesses have characteristics of both intoxication and an infection. E.coli 0157:H7 is an agent that causes such an illness.

Food pathogens: The specific pathogens responsible for food-borne illnesses are fungi, viruses, parasites and bacteria

Fungi, including molds and yeasts, are more adaptable than the other microorganisms and have a high tolerance for acidic conditions.  They are more often responsible for food spoilage than for food-borne illnesses.  Fungi are important to the food in the production of cheese, bread, wine and beer.

Viruses do not actually multiply in food, but if through poor sanitation practice a virus contaminates food, consumption of that food may result in illness.  Infectious hepatitis A, caused by eating shellfish harvested from polluted water (an illegal practice) or poor hand-washing practices after using the rest room is an example.  Once in the body, the viruses invade a cell (called the host cell) and essentially reprogram it to produce more copies of the virus.  The copies leave the dead host cells behind and invade still more cells.  The best defenses against food-borne viruses are good personal hygiene and obtaining shellfish from certified waters.

Parasites are pathogens that feed on and take shelter in another organism, called a host.  The host receives no benefit from the parasite and, in fact, suffers harm or even death as a result.  Amebas and various worms, such as Trichinella spiralis, which is associated with pork, are among the parasites that contaminate food.  Different parasites reproduce in different ways.  An example is the parasitic worm that exists in the lava stage in muscle meats.  Once consumed, the life cycle and reproductive cycle continue.  When the larvae reach adult stage, the fertilized female releases more eggs, which hatch and travel to the muscle of the host, and the cycle continues.

Bacteria are responsible for a significant percentage of biological caused food-borne illnesses.  In order to better protect food during storage, preparation, and service, it is important to understand the classifications of patterns of bacterial growth.  Bacteria are classified by their requirement for oxygen, the temperatures at which they grow best, and their spore-forming abilities.  Aerobic bacteria require the presence of oxygen to grow.  Anaerobic bacteria do not require oxygen and may even die when exposed to it. 

Bacteria produce by means or fission – one bacterium grows and then splits into two bacteria of equal size.  These divide to form four, the four form eight, and so on.  Under ideal circumstances, bacteria will reproduce every twenty minutes or so.  In about twelve hours, one bacterium can multiply into sixty-eight billion bacteria, more than enough to cause illness.  Certain bacteria are able to form endospores, which serves as a means of protection against adverse circumstances such as high temperatures or dehydration.  Endospores allow an individual bacterium to resume its life cycle if favorable conditions should recur.

Bacteria require three basic conditions for growth:

A protein source, readily available moisture and a moderate pH.  The higher the amount of protein in food, the greater the potential as a carrier of a food-borne illness.  The amount of moisture available in a food is measured on the water activity scale.  That will mean food with a high water content, supports bacterial growth.  A food’s relative acidity or alkalinity is measured on a scale known as pH.  A moderate pH is a value between, 4.6 – 10 on a scale that range from 1 – 14, is the best for bacterial growth, and the most foods fall under that range.  Adding acidity with ingredients such as vinegar or citrus juice, can lower the pH level and extend its shelf life.

Many foods provide the three optimum conditions for bacteria to thrive and are therefore potentially hazardous.  Meat, poultry, seafood, tofu and dairy products (with exception of some hard cheeses) are all potential hazardous foods.  Foods do not have to be animal based to contain protein, however; vegetables and grains also contain protein.  Cooked pasta, rice, beans and potatoes are therefore also potentially hazardous, as are sliced melons, sprouts and garlic-and-oil mixtures.

Food that contains pathogens in great enough numbers to cause illness may still look and smell normal.  Disease-causing microorganisms are too small to be seen with the naked eye, so it is usually impossible to ascertain visually that food is adulterated.  Bacteria that causes food to spoil are deferent from the once that causes food-borne illnesses, and that is why adulterated food will still not have off odors and you will not pick it up by smell.

Although cooking food will destroy many of the microorganisms present, careless food handling after cooking can reintroduce pathogens that grow even more quickly without competition for food and space from the microorganisms that causes spoilage.  Although shortcuts and carelessness do not always result in food-borne illnesses, inattention to detail increases the risk of creating an outbreak that may cause serious illness or even death.  Many restaurants and Chefs/Service Stews can never recover from negative publicity and loss of prestige of related food-borne illness outbreaks.

1.        Avoiding cross contamination: Many food-borne illnesses are a result of unsanitary handling procedures in the galley.  Cross contamination occurs when diseases causing elements or harmful substances are transferred from one contaminated surface to another.

Excellent personal hygiene is one of the best defenses against cross contamination.  An crew member with a contagious illness or an infected cut on the hand puts everyone at risk.  Every time the hands come in contact with a possible source of contamination (the face, hair, eyes and mouth) they must be thoroughly washed before continue to work.  Food is at risk of cross contamination during the preparation stage.  Because of the closed environment on a yacht, contagious illnesses can quickly spread and become an outbreak.

·         Ideally separate work areas and cutting boards should be used for raw and cooked foods.

Blue = fish Red = raw meat Yellow = raw poultry Brown = cooked meats Green = fruit and vegetables White = ready to eat food (bread, cheese, pastries)    - Equipment and cutting boards should always be cleaned and thoroughly sanitized between uses  - All foods must be stored carefully to prevent contact between raw and cooked items. - Place drip pans beneath raw foods (blood from raw meat) - Do not handle ready to eat food with bare hands (use suitable utensils and or gloves) - Food handlers must wash hands regularly and correctly using soup hands and forearms for 20 seconds.  Beginning of shift and before every new task.

2.        Keep food out of danger zone: An important weapon against pathogens is the observance of strict time and temperature controls.  Generally, the disease causing microorganisms found in foods need to be present in significant quantities in order to make someone ill, with the exception of E. coli 0157:H7.  Once pathogens have established themselves in a food source, they will either thrive or be destroyed, depending upon how long foods are in the so-called danger zone.

There are pathogens that can live at all temperatures, but for most of those causing food-borne illnesses, the friendliest environment is one that provides temperatures within 5°C to 57°C (the danger zone). Most pathogens are either destroyed or will not reproduce at temperatures above 57°C or below 5°C will slow or interrupt the cycle/ reproduction.  It is also important to know that intoxicating pathogens may be destroyed during cooking, but any toxins they have produced are still there.

When conditions are favourable, pathogens can reproduce at an astonishing rate.  Therefore controlling the time food is at the danger zone is critical to prevention of food-borne illnesses.  Food left at the danger zone (5 - 57°C) for a period longer than four hours are considered adulterated.  You should take note that the four hours are cumulative, meaning that the meter starts running again every time that food enters the danger zone.

Therefore once the four hour period has been exceeded, heating, cooling and or other cooking methods cannot recover food.


3.        Receive and store foods safely:

It is not unheard of for food to be delivered to a food service operation already contaminated.

·         Inspect all food items on arrival the condition of item and the delivery trucks and yacht suppliers or chandlers ·         Check temperature received by and temperature inside delivery trucks ·         Check the expiration date ·         Know and trust your suppliers – are they reputable yacht food suppliers? ·         Verify that food have the required government inspection and certification stamp or tag ·         Randomly sample items and reject any goods that do not meet your standard ·         Move item immediately into their proper storage conditions ·         Refrigerators and freezers should be regularly maintained and temperature checks done daily

·         Meat and poultry     = 0°C - 2°C ·         Fish and shellfish     = -1°C - 1°C ·         Eggs                        = 3°C - 4°C ·         Dairy products         = 2°C - 4°C ·         Produce                   = 4°C - 7°C

·         Separated refrigerators for the above are ideal, but a single unit or section is good ·         The front of the unit will be warmer and the back coldest in a refrigerator ·         Before storing food it should be properly cooled stored in clean containers wrapped and labelled ·         Store raw below and away from cooked to prevent cross contamination ·         Use the principle of first in first out (FIFO) ·        Dry storage used for canned food, spices, condiments, cereals and staples like flour, rice and sugar and for some fruit and vegetables that do not require refrigeration ·         Dry stores must be clean, with proper ventilation and air circulation ·         Store cleaning supplies in separate area

4.        Ready to eat foods: Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.  On a buffet it is important to keep food out of danger zone or take note of time food sits in danger zone (4 hour limit)

·         Cold food ready to eat keep at or below 5°C (use equipment ice or refrigeration) ·     Hot food ready to eat keep  at or above 57°C (use hot holding equipment steam tables, bain-marie, double boilers or heat cabinets or drawers)

5.        Cooling food safely: Cooked foods that are to be stored need to be cooled to below 5°C as quickly as possible.  This should be completed within four hours.
  ·         Cooling liquid in metal container in an ice bath and stir liquid for rapid cooling ·         Semisolids or solids should be stored and refrigerated in single layers in shallow dish for greater surface area to cool quicker ·         Large cuts of meat should be cut in smaller pieces cooled to room temperature and wrapped before refrigerated.

6.        Reheating foods safely: When food are made ahead of time and reheated, they should move through the danger zone as rapidly as possible and be reheated to at least 74°C for a minimum of 15 seconds.  As long as all proper cooling and reheating procedures are followed each time, food may be cooled and reheated more than once.

The proper equipment to hold foods above 57°C should be used like steam tables.  Temperatures should be checked regularly to make sure food is at the right temperatures.

7.        Thawing frozen foods safely: Frozen foods may be thawed in several ways: - Best way and slowest is under refrigeration, the wrapped food placed in a shallow container on a bottom shelf of refrigerator to prevent cross contamination - If time is a problem wrapped food in container under running water at 21°C - not hot water - Individual portions that are to be cooked may be thawed in microwave - Liquids, small items or individual portions may be cooked without thawing


Hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) This is a scientific state-of-the-art food safety program originally developed for astronauts.  HACCP takes a systematic and preventative approach to the conditions that are responsible for most food-borne illnesses.  It is preventative in nature anticipating how food safety problems are most likely to occur, and taking steps to prevent them from occurring.  The HACCP system has been adopted by both food processors, restaurants and yachts; there are no particular mandates that all foodservice establishments must use HACCP.  However, instituting such a plan may prove advantageous on a variety of levels. 

Seven principles of HACCP:

Assess the hazard: analyzing the hazards of the menu items or recipes in every step in the process must be looked at by designing a flowchart.

Identify the critical control points: Identifying the critical control points (CCPs) where you have the ability to prevent, eliminate or reduce a existing hazard or to prevent the likelihood that a hazard will happen

Establish critical limits and control measures:  Each CCP must have critical limits or general standards to control measures for each point.  Control measures are what you can do ahead of time to facilitate the achievement of your critical limit.

Establish procedures for monitoring CCPs: You must establish how the CCP will be monitored and who will do it.  Monitoring helps the system improves by allowing for the identification of problems or faults at particular points in the process and help with traceability to the problem.

Establish corrective action plans: If a deviation or substandard level occurs for a step in the process, a plan of action must be identified.  Specific corrective actions must be developed for each CCP.

Set up a record keeping system:  Keep documentation on hand.  Recording events at CCPs ensures that the critical limits are met.

Develop a verification system: This step is to ensure that the HACCP plan is working correctly. 

Serving food safely: The potential to transmit food-borne illnesses does not end when food leaves the galley.  Steward/esses should also be instructed in good hygiene and safe food-handling.  Hands should be properly washed after using restroom, eating, and smoking, touching one’s face or hair, handling money, dirty dishes or soiled table linens or flatware that comes in contact with food, and handling glassware by the stems or base only.  Carry plates, glasses or flatware in such a way that food contact surfaces are not touched.  Serve all food using the proper utensils.

Cleaning and sanitation:

Cleaning refers to the removal of soil or food particles, whereas sanitation involves using moist heat or chemical agents to kill pathogenic microorganisms. After equipment or tools are sanitized it must be allowed to dry by air. Take the necessary steps to prohibit the potential harboring of various pathogens caused by pests.  Stews should always provide hygienically cleaned cloths, aprons, jackets, etc. to the Chef – daily.

Galley safety:

General safe practise: The Yacht is always moving, so the general rule is: one hand for you and one hand for the boat.  When the yacht is underway, always let a crew member know where you are on deck outside.  It is very important to stow everything to prevent if from moving and falling in rough weather.  Secure all loose items on NON SKID.  Make sure all doors to cupboards are closed and locked and all loose bottles, appliances and tins are in storage bins and secure.  Make sure you always put bilge cover boards back after you have been inside the bilge.  A crew member could fall down into the whole and hurt themselves.  If the bilge is at the bottom of stairs, put a sign up at the top of the stairs to warn crew members. To prevent injuries, always keep floors clean and dry and cupboards fridge/freezer closed and locked.  Keep loose items in the fridge in large plastic bins to prevent from falling around.

In addition to the precautions necessary to guard against food-borne illnesses, care must be taken to avoid accidents to crew and guests.

Health and hygiene:  ·         maintain good general health and personal hygiene ·         do not handle food when ill ·         keep any burns or brakes in skin covered with proper bandage ·         cover face with tissue when coughing or sneezing and wash hands afterwards ·         wash hands regularly ·         keep hair clean and neat and tied up ·         keep fingernails short and clean with no polish ·         keep hands away from face and hair when working with food

Fire safety: ·         a complete fire safety plan should be in place ·         crew must be trained in fire safety and awareness (STCW and Regular drills) ·         equipment maintained regularly ·         premises must be free of fire hazards ·         NEVER TRY TO PUT OUT A GREASE, CHEMICAL OR ELECTRICAL FIRE WITH WATER ·         exists of yacht should be clearly marked and easy assessable ·         your guests rely on you and the crew for guidance
Dressing for safety: ·         chef uniform plays important roles in keeping workers safe ·         jacket bubble breasted for steam and spills ·         sleeves long to cover arms ·         long pants cover legs ·         hats to ensure hair does not fall in food ·         neckerchiefs for absorbing sweat ·         apron protect jacket and pants ·         side towels to protect hands from hot pans and dishes ·         steal-tip non slippery shoes protect feet or from falling ·         when steward/esses assist in galley or with cooking, they should also adhere to these dressing rules ·         Stews are responsible for hygienic cleaning of Chef jackets, aprons, cloths etc.  Wash at high temperatures

Regulation, inspection and certification: ·         Government/MCA/IMO/ISM regulations must be followed ·         New build yachts must contact regulatory bodies in advance to requirements ·         Certifications to be obtained

Drugs and alcohol in workplace: ·         The right of all crew to be free from the hazards posed by fellow crew that are under the influence of drugs or alcohol ·         Abuse of substances are a serious concern and hazardous

Cooking and preparing food when you are moving, could be challenging and your safety is always a priority, never use a deep fryer underway.  Always use fiddles when there are pots on the stove underway.  Always put unused items back in a cupboard and securely lock the cupboard door.  Remember that sometimes the locks on the cupboards are not strong enough to hold the weight of heavy olive oil bottles, etc.  Take these out of the cupboard and store in a bin on the floor for the duration of the trip.  Close all cupboards and fridge/freezer doors properly.  Always use the latches on the fridges and around the galley – EVERY time you opened the door!

Use Plastic storage bins in your fridges/freezers and cupboard it makes life easy and there is less chance for items to move around.  Wear protective clothing, like aprons, protective clogs or closed shoes and a long sleeve chef jacket.

Secure anything not bolted down on non skid.  Know the exact location of all the fire extinguishers, first aid kit and fire blankets in the galley.  Know where the emergency shut-off for the ventilation system is to ensure the fire does not spread.  Know how to use all the equipment.  Store all knives safely, and NEVER in a sink!!

General information-cross contamination, storage temperatures, personal hygiene ·         Store all food sealed with cling wrap, in Ziploc ® bags or in a plastic container ·         Do not serve any food that smells or looks suspicious ·         If food has expired according to the date on the pack, throw it away. ·        If the crew or guests catch fresh fish or shellfish in the Bahamas or Caribbean, make sure the fish does not have the disease Sagittaria. It is very dangerous and could make you very sick.  Common name is:  WORMS ·         Clean your knives after each use and pack away securely ·         Always use a good food-safe disinfectant on all services ·         Clean the galley floor after breakfast, lunch, dinner with a broom and mop ·         Detail the galley regularly ·         Clean up any spills and messes immediately ·      Wash all pots, pans and utensils with warm soapy water and sterilize your cutting boards at least once a week in a dishwasher or with bleach

Galley Cleaning (and general cleanliness in the Steward/ess pantries) ·         General rule: clean from the top down ·         Clean the headliner ·         Start with the top cupboards and work your way down ·         Unpack all cupboards and clean them out once a week and pack everything away securely! ·         Wipe down all the content of the cupboards and refill once a week – check expiry dates ·         Clean counter tops every day - as often as possible ·         Clean out fridges and freezers once a week and wipe out with bleach ·         Keep an open box of Baking Soda (Bicarbonate of Soda) in the fridges to eliminate smells ·         Polish all stainless surfaces once a day ·         Detail oven and microwave once a week ·         Clean the ventilation duct grills at least once a week with a degreaser ·         Clean the inside of the ventilation ducts with a degreaser once a month ·         Clean out dry stores and bilges at least once a month and inventory ·         Clean the bottom of your pans thoroughly especially when you are cooking on a glass top stove, so you do not scratch the surface ·         Use a marble polish on the granite or marble tops once a week ·         Disinfect the rubbish bins once a week inside and out and spray with a disinfectant spray like Lysol

List of foods and their optimum storage temperatures: Dry goods like rice, flour and pastas should be sealed in Ziploc bags and checked for weevils.  Check all the food fridges and freezer temperatures onboard once a day to make sure they are running at the correct temperature.  If food was defrosted, never refreeze it again.  If perishable food has been in a fridge longer than 2 days you should consider throwing it away, it could make someone sick.    Only use bleached tea towels and cloths that have been washed at 95 degrees Celsius.

ALWAYS wash your hands before handling food.  Personal hygiene is important at all times, clean fingernails, clean hair.  Always try to wear a clean shirt, jacket, long pants and apron.  You are judged by your appearance and galley neatness and cleanliness.  Don’t lick your fingers while prepping or cooking!!

Good rules to follow ·        Use a thermometer to measure food temperatures. Cook Hamburgers to 155 Deg F. for 15 seconds.  Cook Poultry to 180 deg. F. ·         Do not eat raw or undercooked eggs ·         Thoroughly cook all foods of animal origin – unless making tartare dishes, sushi or sashimi (use very fresh produce for this) ·         Thoroughly wash produce before eating or cooking

Shelf Storage Store foods in the coolest cabinets or pantry as far away as possible from appliances which will generate heat.  Many staples and canned foods have a relatively long shelf life, but buy only what you expect to use within the time recommended for each product.  Put dates on the food packages that are not date coded and use the oldest first. 

Geographic area affects storage time.  Warm and humid areas shorten shelf life of food.  Buy packaged food in fresh looking packages, with the packaging/wrapping still in tact.  Dusty cans or torn labels may indicate old stock.  Also check the “use before” dates.  Check dented cans for leakage or rust before buying.  Do not buy dented or bulging cans or Tetrapaks.

Refrigerator Storage Store food in a home fridge at 1 - 3 deg C Food spoils rapidly above 3 deg C The temperature in frostless and self-defrosting fridges is fairly uniform throughout the cabinet, including the storage area in the door.  In fridges that are defrosted manually, the coldest area is outside.  The freezer unit is the chill tray just below it. The area at the bottom of the cabinet is the warmest.  The door and the hydrator’s storage area are usually several degrees higher than the rest of the fridge.  When air circulates in the fridge, the cooler air moves down and forces the hot air up. The air motion dries out any uncovered or unwrapped food.

In most fridges, with the control set for normal operation, the temperature in the general storage area is below 3 deg C. You can check the temperature in the fridge by placing a fridge thermometer in a fridge at different locations in the cabinet.  If the temperature is above 3 deg C, regulate the control to lower the temperature.

Frequently opening the fridge door, especially on a warm humid day or an accumulation of thick frost on the freezing unit raises the temperature of the fridge.  Use food stored in the fridge quickly. Do not depend on maximum storage time. Clean the fridge regularly to cut down on food odors.  Throw out spoilt food immediately to prevent decay from spreading to other foods.

Freezer Storage The best temperature for frozen food storage is at -17 deg C.  The temperature should not reach higher than -15 deg C.   Check the temperature with a thermometer, or use this rule of thumb:  If the freezer cannot keep ice cream brick-solid then the temperature is above the recommended level.

The level compartments of some home fridges are not designed to give a temperature of -17 deg C, the temperature needed for prolonged storage of frozen food...  Hold frozen foods in these compartments only a few days. In fridge/freezers where temperatures can be maintained at -17 deg C in the freezer cabinet, food may be kept for the same storage period as in a freezer.

Date food packages with an “expiration date” according to the maximum storage time recommended if they are not date coded.  Longer storage is not dangerous, but flavours and textures deteriorate. Package frozen foods in moisture-vapour-proof (MVP) packages or freezer containers. Holes in freezer packages cause freezer burn. When shopping, pick up frozen foods just before going to the check–outs.  Take a freezer bag (specifically made with a foil lining).  Purchase only the foods that are frozen solid.  Place them in the freezer as soon as possible.  Cook or thaw according to the label instructions.  Place foods to be frozen in the coldest part of the freezer.  Freeze no more than three pounds/cubic foot of freezer space within 24 hours.  Keep the freezer full for best results. Also keep a written inventory of freezer content.  It is better to separate bulk meats into smaller portions and then vacuum pack the portions.  This would make it easier to use if you only need smaller portions of meats.