Safety is extremely important. Accidents occurring at home are a very
high cause of serious injuries and may be more disruptive and
disorienting than those equivalent injuries occurring in the work place.
Why? Because we just don't expect it in the safety of our homes and although busy, tends to be quieter with
predictable periods of chaos but otherwise calm and controlled. An accident can cause
The most important thing to remember and to control is the safety factor. Remove the elements that caused the mishap. If it was a burn make sure the source of the heat is turned off or turned away from the place of the treatment. If it was caused by broken glass or a blade, then remove the blade or shattered glass from the area of treatment. If it was an electrical incident, then switch off the power to the appliance and remove the appliance from the power receptacle.
Burns: Occur in the cooking phase of food preparation.
The specific burns encountered may be due to naked flame, hot surfaces, steam or hot oil. Occasionally there are electrical burns. Remember to make the situation safe for yourself and any victim before assessing or treating them. This really is the most important aspect of First Aid.
of the cause the damage done is identical and the first aid treatment
is the same. The higher the heat the more damage can be done.
flame burns generally come from gas cooking. The best way is to get
into the habit of turning off the gas at the same time you finish
cooking. If there's a two or multi-stepped cooking process it is
worthwhile turning off the gas in between each cooking process. The
re-igniting of the gas takes a second, the heat is instantaneous and the
risk of accidental burning is minimal. Gas installations should be
carried out by trained service people. Gas is one area where there seems
to be a delay in poor workmanship and accidents. It is usually as
simple as a miss-matched fitting but it is likely to show up in time and
cause an accident. Inspection of connecting hoses and regulators for
damage is a good habit also. If something is not right then at the earliest convenient time call a gas plumber
to have the problem rectified.
Hot surfaces occur around the site of the heat and the cooking utensils used. The spot support structures over a gas ring will be hot obviously and few people would presume to touch this without checking first. Cooking implements are less likely to be presumed hot if they are not with the cooking items. So a ladle which may have been used for cooking the contents in a pot may be put down on a cold surface and mistakenly picked up not by the handle but by a hot part and can burn.
Steam issuing from a pot with a lid covering is as hot as boiling water but in fact it may have more heat and can burn terrifically extremely quickly. The steam on a dry hot day can be fairly invisible in low light situations. An arm reaching across a pot even with some covering can receive a very bad burn if it comes too close to the steam. Another cause of steam burn is when pouring off excess boiling water. The steam that issues when a pot is turned out into a sink or whatever has a much greater surface area so that a lot more steam issues up when this happens. This generally is a low level burn but can cause a reaction that then may cause a much more serious burn such as dropping the pot and splashing the boiling contents. Stumbling and an injury not related to a burn but still debilitating. Steam is often an overlooked risk.
Hot oil causes extremely severe burns. Temperatures are typically 180ºC (350F). Spilled hot oil is a nightmare-ish scenario. Never transfer hot oil using a one handled pot. There is such lack of control that the slightest glitch can cause a spill. The most sensible people would allow all hot oil to cool to room temperature before doing anything with it, one handle or two.
oil can be caused by small eruptions such as cumin seeds splattering in
the oil. This is often used as a test for checking appropriate oil
temperature for frying. It's a good test but be wary. The trick here is
to keep well back so that the tiny oil globules can't hit you on the
skin. The second most common reason is water in or on the food.
Typically vegetables that have been peeled and washed then placed into
frying oil are the causes of fairly marked splattering of oil. It's
important to pat dry washed vegetables with a cloth or paper towels and
inspect them before placing them into the oil. It's also a good habit to
use tongs to place the food object into the oil rather than fingers.
third cause of oil burns is fire. The fire can start by over-heating of
oil generally on a naked flame or gas burner. There are usually warning
signs before ignition including the generation of smoke and increased aroma from the superheated oil. For this reason it's important that you keep an eye
on the heated oil at all times. Sometimes there is a fire in an oil pan
and unfortunately a person has poured water onto the flames. The oil
will spatter out explosively in this situation and much of it will be
alight. Never pour water onto hot oil. The first thing that should be
done is to attempt to smother the flames with a lid preferably and turning
off the heat source as well. The best way to smother flames beyond the pot is with a
fire blanket. The extinguisher is the third level of flame control. Be informed on how to use your dry chemical or CO2 extinguisher. There are safety consideration in using this tool.
Electrical burns are caused by current arcing across the skin with heat generation and is always due to an electrical short circuit fault. Turn off the power to the appliance and remove the power cord from the power outlet. Be most careful not to touch the victim if they are still in contact with the electrical supply until turning off the electrical supply. You are at grave risk of being electrocuted if you do so.
Cuts: Occur generally in preparative phases of cooking and often by blades, typically for two reasons.
4. For people who may have some attention deficit due to medication, vascular disease or some neurological type illnesses for your safety and well being maybe you should ask yourself if you are safe doing the cooking tasks at hand? It's a really hard thing to say I know and maybe the answer is very unpalatable. I don't know your reaction to this possibility but can sympathise with such a predicament. One possible solution is to work with some one else or a group of people who can all support and teach each other new aspects in a safe environment with reassurance.
Dropping glass is something that can be difficult to prevent but there are some high risk and preventable precautions.
Don't pick up hot contents in a glass vessel. You will drop it as a reaction.
The easy availability of a fire blanket
is an exceptionally sensible precaution. If your kitchen has a single
line of access and the food prep and cooking area are central, then it
is highly recommended that you invest in two dry chemical extinguishers
and two fire
blankets, one set for each side of the hob. Dry chemical extinguishers
are an effective flame extinguisher if you know how to use them. Please
read the information provided
for effective deployment of these two life and property saving
should be a safe supply of electricity and the electrical appliances
should be safe. If you have a portable island bench then have overhead
power outlets installed. Don't have trailing extension leads across the
floor. It's very dangerous.
frayed or perished electrical cords, non-double insulated appliances
must be earthed and/or protected by a functional RCD circuit.
Power outlets and electrical appliances should not be within a meter of a faucet and never within the area beneath a faucet. (This is generally controlled by regulations)
Power cords must not be trailing in water or oil on the work surface.
should be worn when using electrical appliances. Shoes act as insulator
in the case of an electrical fault and secondly they generally offer
some grip in a sudden slippery situation.
Make sure you have dry hands when connecting/disconnecting an appliance to the electrical supply outlet.
Power cords should not be draped across thoroughfare spaces and they should not cross a work prep area such as a cutting board.
If an electrical incident has occurred then please do not resume use of the appliance and their fitting until it has been thoroughly re-inspected. If it fails inspection and cannot be safely repaired, then discard the appliance and make sure any other person cannot use it, no matter how dear and dear it is. Life is far more valuable!
Spills are hazardous!
I apologise for teaching your grandmother how to suck eggs and I do think that most of us are sensible and careful. Accidents on the other hand happen unexpectedly and an accident caused by disorganisation or by fluke momentary incident is likely to cause damage and personal injury to some extent, irrespective of the cause. We are working with really high energies when cooking Asian food. Often high flux gas rings, hot oil in an exposed area and steam. Any of these can injure quickly.
A good space for cooking Asian should be uncluttered, ventilated with clear lines of sight and thoroughfare to the running cold water. All obstacles from the cooking area to the tap (faucet) should be inspected and cleared.
In the case
of a burn of any origin to the skin, move immediately, without delay, to the running
cold water and place the affected body part under the running cold
water and keep it there for 5 minutes or longer. If you do this
really quickly you will likely reduce the damage caused by the heat on
the exposed tissues and those tissues in close proximity to the
directly burned and it will reduce the pain. You may be tempted to remove your hand or foot or face
from the cold running water because the pain may be disappearing.
Don't. Maintain the immersion. Don't apply ice to the burned area as this may cause frostbite.
Don't remove any burned clothing that maybe melted around the skin and adhering. Inspect the burns. If the burns look significant and there is pain then you may choose to seek some medical treatment for pain control if nothing else. If they are reasonably extensive, red, blistered and painful then it is likely to be second degree burns. The area of second degree burning is taken as an indicator of severity as well as the site. If the second-degree burn is no larger than 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) in diameter, treat it as a minor burn. If the burned area is larger or if the burn is on the hands, feet, face, groin or buttocks, or over a major joint, treat it as a major burn and get medical help immediately.
the burn looks severe and there is little pain then please go straight
to medical services. This could be a third degree burn and can confuse
the victim as the pain isn't the indicator. The nerves may have
been damaged and so the pain receptors aren't there. This
needs to be assessed and treated urgently.
the burn is painful but minimal as you have probably experienced many
times throughout your cooking life and scouting or sneaking cigarettes
and backfiring matches or lighters, then you may elect to simply ignore
or take some OTC analgesics. It's of no clinical benefit to dress these
burns except to prevent the inadvertent knocking and the 1000 degree
stabs of pain caused by this. This sensitivity often subsides quickly.
Generally speaking do not dress any wounds with ointments or tinctures. You can loosely cover the burn area with sterile gauze but not the cotton flock type. There is little significant risk of infection at this stage and you may in fact be adding more damage to the injury by treating with tinctures and ointments. Do not dress the wound with butter or petroleum grease (Vaseline). These are quite difficult to remove and need to be removed for any medical treatment. Some burns ointments are effective local anesthetics for very minor burns but can cause further tissue damage if the burn is of greater severity. eg: many of these contain chemicals such as picric acid, phenol, alcohol all are neurotoxic and biocidal. Antiseptic solutions such as straight Dettol, Povidone and 70% alcohol can and probably will destroy some good and exposed tissue.
If the burns require medical treatment by ambulance and or hospital then
please don't administer any pain killer medicines. Pain can be
distressing to the observer but it won't harm the victim. The
ambulance officers will have standing orders and telephone
communications with medical personnel if pain control is required. This will probably be administered by injection or inhalation gas. If
the victim requires surgery then giving anything by mouth can possibly
The initial treatment for burns is the same irrespective of the cause of the burn.
First Aid for Cuts
you are the first to appear and there looks to have been a serious
accident then first and most importantly look to see if there are any
safety hazards: Fire, boiling liquids, broken glass evidence of
electrical accident. Please keep calm your safety depends on this as
well as that of the victim.
You need to make the area safe by dealing with these quickly and effectively before you assist any injured person. (You must not jeopardise your own safety in this situation because it is quite likely that you could become a victim of the same cause and then there are two casualties needing help)
there is fire, extinguish the flames with coverings such as towels or
blankets. Turn off the gas or power to any cooking device. Make sure
that pot handles are turned inwards to prevent accidental spilling of
contents. Unplug any electrical appliance. Sweep away any broken glass
into a safe corner. Remove all chairs and other things.
Assess the injuries as best you can. Check that the victim is conscious. Make sure that you can safely lay them on the floor if they feel faint or in fact do faint.
If they are unconscious lay them on the floor. It doesn't have to be on their side just flat on the floor. Check for cuts if there is any broken glass, pottery or blades around. Attend to severe cuts with towels and pressure. You need to call medical assistance here.
Wait until assistance arrives while keeping focused on the victim's state of consciousness and bleeding.
decision to secure a wound in many situations is partly a medical
decision and partly a personal decision. The best answer to this is to
discuss your options with your doctor.
The difference between glue and sutures: There doesn't appear to be any difference in outcome. There is little difference in discomfort during the procedure but there may be a perception that sutures hurt more. There really is little evidence to support this in minor situations. Once again discuss this with your doctor.
Food Prep Hygiene.
Wash the meat dishes and implements. Clean the work bench immediately.
This is possibly the single most important cleaning requirement.
Bacteria are at the highest numbers immediately following preparing
meat. Wash your hands again.
If the water you use is contaminated with bacteria boiling will kill the
bugs if it is allowed to boil for long enough. This is considered as 1
minute at sea level adding an extra two minutes for each mile of
altitude (1600 metres). So boiling vegetables typically for 3 minutes or greater
is a safe practice.
Recommended freezer temperatures vary depending on the term of storage and whether or not the freezer will be used for freezing foods from ambient temperatures. The all inclusive recommendation is for a freezer to maintain a temperature at -18oC (0F). Food is considered safe and palatable stored at this temperature for up to three months.
Frozen foods, particularly meats should be thawed in the refrigerator. If this is followed the thawed meat can be refrozen. (Ref: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/focus_on_freezing/index.asp#14)
refrigerators usually have pre-moulded sections or shelves in the door.
Typically eggs, milk and other dairy produce are earmarked for this
area. Unfortunately refrigerator doors are often not well insulated and
some of the door spaces investigated, have shown unacceptable
temperatures in this region even when the body compartment was within
safe limits. Thus presume the door is an unsafe area for milk and eggs.
Both of these should be stored in the main body of the fridge. (You may
like to check the door temperatures with an appropriate thermometer
over a few days. If it's within specification then of course it is safe
to use the door as supplied for storage. The door is OK for
butter/margarine and cheeses, sauces and other relatively stable items.
In very hot conditions at least, do not use the door for milk and egg
should be cleaned immediately and this is particularly important if the
liquids of the meat are spilled. Meat is the number one potential
infectious food item.
non-auto defrost fridges. Ice accumulation will reduce the efficiency
of the refrigerator and can even take parts of the fridge above the
safety temperature. Most fridges have a defrost button and some means of
collecting any condensate from the defrost. It's important to empty
this defrost regularly if its collected within the body of the cabinet
of the fridge during the process particularly if the fridge is well
iced. The reason being is that this defrost may also be contaminated if
there was any spill in or on the freezer compartment of such a fridge.
The smaller the volume managed at a time, the less likelihood of
spilling the condensate again. As with all routine processes it's ideal
if you can set a schedule for defrosting say once a fortnight and this
will prevent any major ice build up and temperature problems. There is
no need to force defrost the fridge. Allowing the fridge to defrost
under it's own system is the best way to manage this. This will keep
refrigerated items cold and safe during the process and the auto-start
will kick in when the temperature gets above the set limit. It's always
a good thing to have an appropriate thermometer in the fridge to check
the operating temperature and the defrosting temperature.
What is Botulism?
There are a few subtypes of the bacteria but in short it can be found in the soil on most of the world.
How does the poison get to people?
Is it a risk?
Is it likely to be a problem?
Is it preventable?
Is it easy to heat sterilise the bacterium?
What foods has botulism been associated with?
So how does one prevent botulism?
Bacillus cereus is a micro organism, a bacterium, which may cause acute illness being vomiting and or diarrhoea.
The bacterium is killed by heating such as the process for rice cooking but there's another aspect. The bacteria can produce spores that are not destroyed by heating at the temperature of boiling water. So a possible scenario is that contaminated rice with the bacillus cereus spores is cooked. It is left over-night at room temperature and then a batch of fried rice is made. In that period of overnight the spores have germinated and produced what is called vegetative bacteria that as a result of their growth may produce toxins. The three significant toxins in the brew can cause humans to be sick. Two of these can cause severe diarrhoea and abdominal pain. The other called 'cereulide' can cause vomiting. The symptoms of vomiting are generally quick onset being as short as 60 minutes after eating. The diarrhoea toxin tends to be delayed 18 hours.
Unfortunately the spores are not killed by boiling water and neither is the chemical toxin produced by the vegetative bacteria that causes vomiting, destroyed. The diarrhoeal toxins seems to be destroyed by heat. The bacteria themselves are killed but the damage has been done. As mentioned, the vomiting toxin, cereulide, is also very resistant to heat damage so that after re-cooking in the case of fried rice for example, the toxin is still in the food and still able to cause havoc to the diner and it does.
How to prevent the food poisoning:
You have a few options here.
Keeping cooked rice for extended periods of time is a very common method for rice preparation and subsequent eating. There are also rice dishes that are cooked and served for days after preparation in traditional recipes such as the SE Asian rice in banana leaf deserts and confections. Obviously not everyone gets sick.
This leads to the next question of:
How likely is it to get sick from stored rice after cooking?
There were 14 outbreaks and 691 reported cases in the US between 1993 and 1997. This is quite a low number and is likely to be an underestimate of the true number of cases. Illness caused by this organism is not required to be reported to the CDC. This number still suggests quite a low incidence.
It would be great to know of the incidence of cases in countries of Asia where rice is eaten everyday by everyone :)
Other surveys have suggested that the organism bacillus cereus is the cause of 2-5% of food caused illness.
Do people build a tolerance to the toxins produced by the bacillus cereus?
The answer to this seems to be: 'No'. The toxin that causes vomiting, cereulide, seems also to kill the immunocytes, the very first level of resistance to an attack. Because of the killing of the immunocytes there is no population of lymhphocytes established to produce a specific antibody and thus it is unlikely that subsequent contact would produce an increased resistance by an individual to this toxin. In other words you are not likely to build up a resistance to Rice Food Poisoning
Does the bacillus cereus cause any other disease?
It has been associated with some cases of chronic skin infections and keratitis, an eye infection.
It may cause septicaemia but the national US incidence is only 2 reported cases a year. Not a worrying incidence.
If you are very cautious then I think that you should refrigerate your rice within 4 hours of cooking or keep it held on the warm cycle of your rice cooker >65ºC (149F) for up to 24 hours.
The diagnosis of bacillus cereus caused illness is not likely to be a definitive diagnosis, in other words your doctor is not likely to tell you for sure that your illness was caused by bacillus cereus or Rice Food Poisoning, as a proven cause, but may say that it is one of the possibilities. The diagnostic methods are highly technical and are specialised, therefore costly, being reserved to groups that are doing research on this topic. The cost benefit of including this testing in people with acute diarrhoea and/or vomiting likely to be caused by food probably isn't seen as important for treating affected people. This is because the treatment is supportive and the symptoms are self limiting, meaning that people recover within a reasonable period of time without a specific intervention. This doesn't mean that modern medicine doesn't care about this as it certainly does care about any who are acutely ill. The information provided by knowing that it was caused by rice is of no real benefit in the majority of cases. This would be different in the case of an outbreak or a lot of cases of this illness and would be considered if this were to happen.
This image is like the botulism micrograph in that the bacteria are rod shaped, (bacillus), and has the bright spores inside many of the bacillae.
This organism grows in the presence of oxygen. The spores are heat resistant. The toxin responsible for vomiting is also heat resistant.