• School Science Class Year 5

    Making School Science Exciting – and encouraging good hygiene practices!

    Dr Lisa Ackerley, The Hygiene Doctor

    I was asked to run a science class at a local school for 40 Year 5 children (aged 9-10). Using an ultra-violet light torch and glow-in-the-dark powder, we carried out 3 experiments to bring microbiology to life and show how invisible organisms can spread. Some of the children had seen me doing something very similar on GMTV in the summer.

    Bacteria are Invisible, but they are Everywhere

    First I explained that you can’t see bacteria and viruses with the naked eye, and that whilst most micro-organisms are harmless, some can cause illness, and these are called pathogens. Our experiments were to demonstrate how bacteria and viruses could spread. Because the powder is invisible in bright light, it is very useful to show how invisible micro-organisms can transfer from hand to hand or surface to surface around the home.

    Hand to Hand Transfer of BacteriaUV light reveals dirty hands

    Group one was asked to form a line and the first girl shook my hand, then turned round and shook the hand of the girl behind and so on to the end. Then we dimmed the lights and using the torch we could see the spread of the powder from one girl to the next. This demonstrated how germs could spread via hands. The powder was still visible on the 7th hand! Obviously the importance of hand-washing was becoming evident….

    Uv torch reveals dirty clothTea Towels – How they can Transfer Bacteria

    Group 2 used a tea towel to wipe dry some wet drinking beakers. What they didn’t know is that I had put some of the powder on the tea towel! When we shone the torch on the cups, the powder could be seen on the inside of the cups. This showed how important it is to wash the tea towel regularly so that you are not putting bacteria onto your clean crockery and cutlery when drying up.

    Cleaning – can make things Dirtier!

    Group 3 were asked to go and “clean” some surfaces in the classroom with a cloth – and guess what? There was some glow in the dark powder on the cloth too. So when we shone the torch on the surfaces, we saw how the powder had transferred to surfaces. This demonstrated how dangerous a dirty cloth could be. I told them about all the dirty cloths we found in the UK survey, many of them with E.coli on.

    Toilet HygieneGreen is clean swabs show up dirty surfaces

    Group 4 used the “green is clean” swab to see if there were any dirty areas in the toilets and classroom – but well done school cleaners – all was sparkling!!

    Hand Washing

    Finally, as the powder was now on nearly everyone’s hands, I played a little trick, and asked everyone to go and wash their hands. Then I used the torch to see who had done it properly – oh dear! We then had a discussion on how to make sure that the backs of hands are washed, between the fingers and nails. The time it takes to sing “happy birthday to you” all the way through twice is how long you should take. So I guess it will be quite noisy at the sinks now – sorry teachers!!

    We then gave out homework sheets and one task was to invent a bug, draw a picture of it and give it a name.

    Teachers: For a session plan and UV powder and a torch contact us: info@thehygienedoctor.co.uk

     UV Germ kit

     

  • Don’t have your poo and eat it.

    The Hygiene Doctor takes on the risky subject of poo!

    Help!

    Recently I was watching the Oscar-winning film The Help and was laughing at the scene where Minny cooks the fateful poo pie.  Like most people I was horrified at the thought of eating poo, but it got me thinking that in many circumstances, people may be unconsciously doing just that!

    Many of the home hygiene studies we do have identified faecal contamination in some fairly surprising places around the home, garden and even on items in handbags!

    Faecal contamination is the posh word for “poo”. So how is poo getting around the house?

    Hand washing -it stops faceal contamination

    Wash your hands after using the toilet

    It’s so basic you might think I’m wasting my time talking about it, but you would be amazed at the high number of Britons who don’t actually wash their hands after going to the toilet. A recent study showed that as many as 26% of UK hands have faecal matter on them at any one time. That’s around 16.5million pairs of hands!

    If you don’t wash your hands, faeces can easily transfer to food, or to crockery and cutlery which means the chances of ingestion are high and if someone is carrying a nasty bug such as norovirus then it can quickly do the rounds. Even if you haven’t done a “number 2” then the person using the facilities before you may have, leaving bacteria on the toilet flush and door handle!

    School Children

    It is especially important to teach children the importance of hand washing as that way they will carry the good habits on into adulthood. I recently went into a school to do a hand washing science session, with some surprising results. You can read more about that visit on my school blog.

    Many schools have a policy that children may not return to school until 48 hours after the child has had no symptoms of food poisoning. However, it is known that norovirus and other dangerous food poisoning organisms can be carried for many days, if not weeks after the symptoms were showing. Even more worrying, it is estimated that around 16% of the population carry norovirus without having any symptoms.

    So the important message is (sorry) HAND WASHING, HAND WASHING, HAND WASHING!

    How to Wash your Hands

    Hand washing doesn’t mean a quick swill under the tap:

    • Wet the hands
    • Put on soap
    • Rub your hands together
    • Rub in between the fingers
    • In your palms, interlock your fingers to rub soap into your nails
    • Lather round your thumbs and fingertips
    • Rinse
    • Dry on a clean towel or better still a paper towel.

    Watch this video to see how you should wash your hands:

    If someone is ill

    Hand washing is even more important if you or anyone in your family is ill with any infectious disease from colds and flu to food poisoning.

    Is it worth it you may ask? Well think about how much money illness can cost, let alone the pain and suffering!

    Here are some of the financial costs:

    • Time off work
    • Time off work looking after children
    • Prescriptions and over-the counter medication
    • Travel to hospital, doctor, chemist
    • Parking at the hospital, doctors or chemists
    • Additional cleaning and laundry
    • Missing clubs, activities and special events you have paid for
    • Missing nursery or childcare you have paid for

    So spending a little time washing your hands is worth it!

     Doctoid - facts about food safety from Dr Lisa Ackerley, the Hygiene Doctor

  • Pets are great, but take care when cleaning up dog poo

    Dog Poo and What to do with It!

    Dog Poo – how to stay safe

    Dog Poo Bins

    Over the last 20 years the British public have become much, much better at cleaning up after their dogs, but there is still a risk from the poo bins that you find in most public spaces, as with so many ‘deposits’ being made into these there is a risk of contamination on the lids and sides. Sadly I don’t have a dog at the moment, but here are some practical tips for dealing with poo!Read more

  • Kitchen Cloths – Don’t Muddle them Up!

    Dr Lisa Ackerley says make sure you’re not making your home dirtier when cleaning up!

    Make sure your kitchen cloth is not used for the floor

    Recently my PA told me about how she got into a bit of a strop with her boyfriend when she caught him using the dishcloth on the floor. As she rightly pointed out, as she had just walked in with her outdoor shoes on, effectively if he had used the same cloth for cleaning the dishes, it was like having the bottom of her trainers being rubbed all over the teaspoons, and of course, we all know that trainers could have been walked though anything!

    How dirty is your cloth?

    In our home hygiene studies we have found that the cloth is often the dirtiest item in the home. We have found billions of bacteria on cloths, including those which could cause illness, and those that indicate faecal contamination. Faecal contamination means that either bacteria have been picked up directly from faeces (poo) or from raw meat or vegetables that have been in contact with faeces. Either way, it’s not good. In effect, using a contaminated cloth could mean that instead of cleaning you are effectively “dirtying.” What a waste of time, and what a potential danger to your family!

    Top Tips for Cloths

    • Make sure that you always use separate cloths for high risk cleaning areas such as the floor, or the toilet – use different types and colours so it is obvious
    • For floor spillages, use paper towels or wipes that you throw away
    • If you have been preparing raw meat or poultry, treat the area as very dirty, and use anti-bacterial sprays and paper towels or anti-bacterial wipes
    • Wash cloths on a hot wash – over 60°C, preferably on a boil wash to get them free of dangerous bacteria

    It might seem like an extra chore, but it could make all the difference to your family’s health.

    Doctoid Fact from Dr Lisa Ackerley, the Hygiene Doctor - 40% of food poisoning is caused in the home

  • Have you got a tummy bug?

    What is a tummy bug? Dr Lisa Ackerley Investigates

    Food Standards Agency Report.

    According to the Food Standards Agency, around 1 in 4 of the population suffers from an episode of Infectious Intestinal Disease (IID) in a year – representing an amazing possible 17 million cases annually.[1] An IID is caused by a pathogenic micro-organism. In simple terms, it’s a tummy bug that someone has eaten which causes symptoms such as vomiting and or diarrhoea.

    Whilst most micro-organisms are harmless, there are also plenty that can cause harm. Norovirus accounts for the highest number of incidents, at around 3 million cases per year. Easily passed from one person to another, it can be picked up from food (oysters), water, and almost any hard surface touched by an infected person who has not washed their hands after using the toilet or if someone has vomited nearby (the projectile vomit can go a long way)! Thankfully, most sufferers recover relatively quickly, within a few days – BUT they may still be carrying the virus so good hand washing after using the toilet is absolutely essential.

    What caused my tummy bug?

    It’s actually very difficult to find out what caused someone to be ill – believe me, I spend a lot of time dealing with cases!hand washing - an important way of preventing the spread of disease

    When someone says they have a tummy bug, they often think it is the last thing they ate that caused the illness, but in fact it may be something they ate some time ago.

    Take Campylobacter for example, (which is found on raw chicken, and can spread through cross-contamination and lack of hand washing after preparing raw meat and poultry), can take up to 11 days before symptoms appear.

    So just because you throw up your last meal, it doesn’t mean that was the cause of the illness.

    How to prevent getting a tummy bug

    • Wash your hands after using the toilet – and try not to touch surfaces in the toilet afterwards!
    • Avoid cloth towels unless in your own bathroom – they can harbour germs
    • Always wash your hands before eating – especially if you have been on public transport or are out in a restaurant – if you have picked up norovirus and then eat food using your fingers, you will infect yourself!
    • Wash hands after preparing raw meat, poultry, fish and, vegetables – stop the bacteria spreading!

    If someone in your house has a tummy bug

    • Take special care when cleaning up – use anti-bacterial or anti-viral products – I really like Dettol Disinfectant Spray and Cleansers as they kill viruses and bacteria (good for flu and colds as well)
    • Use disinfectant wipes to clean hard surfaces such as door handles, floors, toilet flush, toilet seat
    • Use disposable gloves to clean up and then bin them
    • Wash your hands (I wash mine twice if dealing with something really horrid)!  See my blog on hand-washing
    • The patient should use their own hand towel

     

     

     

    [1] Food Standards Agency (2000).  A report of infectious intestinal disease in England.  London: The Stationary Office.

    [2] Tam CC, Rodrigues LC, Viviani L et al.  Longitudinal study of infectious intestinal disease in the UK (IID2 Study): incidence in the community and presenting to general practice. Gut. 2011 Jul 5

  • Is it Safe to Eat Pink Duck?

    The Hygiene Doctor discusses whether you should serve rare duck

    I’m often asked if it is safe to eat pink duck. The most important thing is actually whether the temperature has got high enough for potentially dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella or Campylobacter to be killed.

    Cooking whole poultry

    If cooking a whole chicken or duck, check the area between the thigh and the breast (the thickest part); the core temperature should be 75°C.

    Cooking duck breast

    Pink duck is safe if it is over 75 CIf checking a duck breast, put the probe in the centre of thickest part of the breast.

    The good news is that it is possible to cook duck to this safe core cooking temperature and yet still retain some pinkness to the flesh, as shown from the photograph of my dinner last night!

    Remember that food continues to cook after you have taken it out of the pan or oven, which is why chefs “rest” meat after cooking – so take it off the heat a little early, put in the thermometer and leave it – watch the temperature go up till it reaches 75°C. If it doesn’t get that high, then take out the probe, (disinfect it) and pop the duck back in the pan again for a few minutes. You can always cook it a bit more if you need to.

    If you want to never over or under cook food again, buy a thermometer like this from Hygiene Audit Systems for only £20 please contact us on 01727 866779 for more details or to pay by credit card.

    Remember: if using a probe thermometer to check that food has reached a core temperature of 75°C, it must be clean and disinfected before use.

    Top tips to clean the thermometer:

    • Use an antibacterial spray and some paper towels
    • Use antibacterial wipes
    • Put the probe tip into boiling water (if you are doing peas or potatoes, then that is just fine)!
  • Holiday Safety – some simple advice

    Help! I’m going on Holiday abroad – how do I stay safe?

    Dr Lisa Ackerley shares some of her experiences from presenting on the BBC’s Secret Tourist and Holiday Hit Squad

    You don’t want to turn into a hotel inspector, but here are a few tips that may make your holiday safer.

    Room

    Taking a moment or two to check your accommodation before you unpack the suitcase could make a real difference to your stay – and could save your life!

    • Check out emergency exits from your accommodation as soon as you arrive – this could save your lives. Don’t rely on the plan on the back of the door – I have found that it is often wrong!
    • Make sure if you have young children that they can’t get onto the balcony unless you are with them. Check that the balcony is safe to use – is it high enough, is it like a climbing frame? Can the children step up to get over it? Is it wobbly? If in any doubt, ask for another, preferably ground floor room.
    • Check out the electrical sockets – are there any exposed wires or broken sockets?

    Plug Socket - Always check plug sockets when you arrive at a hotel Hotel Fire Exits - always familiarise yourself with the nearest exit. Balcony safety - ensure your balcony is safe before allowing children to play

    Pool

    The swimming pool is normally one of your holiday’s luxuries. Make sure it doesn’t become one of the inconveniences.

    • If it is murky, don’t go in it – it won’t be clean enough and it could be unsafe if you can’t see a child in difficulty under the water. Complain straight away and take pictures.
    • Check out the depths – tell your children where the deep end is, and supervise at all times
    • Check out any trip hazards or slip hazards – I have seen hotels with broken grills round the pool – ideal to fall into a gulley and break your leg whilst falling in to the pool
    • Avoid the Jacuzzi unless the hotel is really spotless – some even tell you the pool hygiene readings and checks.

     Holiday swimming pools - they might look inviting but there can be hidden dangers Dangerous Swimming Pool - Watch out for trip and slip hazards! Dirty Swimming pool - if it's dirty, don't go in!

    Buffet

    You can’t exactly spend your holiday eating bread and bottled water (although that’s what I had to do on some of my trips)! Following some simple advice, you can eat to your heart’s content.

    • Hot food should be hot, cold food cold.
    • Watch out for recycled food – food that has been out once and is made into something else – for example, I have seen hot sausages for breakfast and then chopped sausages in salad the next day
    • If there are flies or birds landing on the food, don’t touch it.
    • Avoid drinks from large dispensers unless you feel really confident about the cleanliness of the place.
    • Re-constituted drinks (where water is added to concentrate or powder) means you are drinking the local water – are you confident it is safe? If not then have drinks from sealed bottles – and give the ice a miss for the same reason
    • Avoid dishes with undercooked eggs in, either breakfast or desserts – Salmonella is not so well controlled in many countries as it is in the UK

    If food is covered properly this is a good sign! Dessert Buffets - make sure hat cold buffets are well chilled Cold Buffets - avoid food with flies on it

    Watch Dr Lisa talking to Watchdog here

  • Is a bit of dirt good for you?

    Fresh Produce - Wash raw foods before eating“A peck of dirt before you die” – I will give it a miss, thanks

     

    Dr Lisa Ackerley looks at the reasons why you should wash raw vegetables thoroughly.

     

    The Health Protection Agency revealed that unwashed leeks and potatoes may have been the cause of 250 scattered cases of E.coli O157 during 2010- 2011 which hospitalised 74 people and killed one already sick person.

    So how do you make sure you don’t fall ill from E. coli? Should you stop buying leeks and potatoes? Of course not! Just follow some simple rules:

    • Cooking kills E. coli, so all leeks and potatoes will be safe when cooked.
    • Use anti-bacterial products to remove dirt and kill E. coli on potentially contaminated surfaces such as chopping boards and sinks.
    • Make sure you wash your hands properly after handling raw vegetables – not a quick swill under the tap, but with soap, warm water and dry them properly afterwards preferably on a paper towel or hand towel – not a tea towel! This is a video from the Food Standards Agency on hand-washing which is for caterers, but there are some useful tips for the home.

    It raises the issue again of how to clean produce which is to be eaten raw – produce wash for domestic and commercial use is available from the Hygiene Audit Systems shop.

    So would I want to eat a peck of dirt? Not if it has E. coli on it – and how can you tell? It seems as though nearly every month another source of this potentially deadly organism is uncovered. So to keep things simple, assume that raw vegetables, meat and poultry may be contaminated, clean up carefully after preparation, and wash your hands!

  • Hello from the Hygiene Doctor!

    A very warm welcome to the Hygiene Doctor web site!

    On this site my aim is to help de-mystify all there is to know about food safety and environmental health – whether you are a mum, dad, child, a food handler, business owner, TV or radio producer, newspaper or magazine journalist, this site is where you can find all you need to know about bacteria & viruses and how we can get the better of them!

    If you can’t find what you are looking for, then do ask me!

  • All I want for Christmas is….

    Dr Lisa’s Christmas List

    pink duck over 75 - a low cost thermometer helps you make sure you are not over- or under-cooking foodWhat do I give someone who has everything for Christmas?

    Well strangely I have found that my friends really appreciate a probe thermometer and no – that’s not taking my work too seriously! In fact, one friend asked for another one for her fund-raising barbeque.

    One interesting outcome of being an owner of a small cheap £15 thermometer is that food is not cooked too much. Before I decided to take my work home with me, the kids would wear out their jaws on over-cooked food – there was no way I was giving them E.coli! Burgers were incinerated, chicken was like cardboard! Now, cooking to 75°C in the core means that food is cooked just enough to kill the bacteria, but is so much more tasty!  

    I am sure that I am not the only one who has experienced dry and rather inedible turkey at Christmas. Unfortunately the colour of cooked poultry is not always a sure sign of its safety. Only by using a probe thermometer can one accurately determine that poultry has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 75°C throughout. Turkey can actually remain pink (and tender!) even after cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature of 75°C.

    My teenagers, coming from a digital age, think nothing of using the probe to check temperatures and make sure they are not going to poison themselves. They wouldn’t dream of guessing! In my experience, as teenagers, like water, only take the line of least resistance, this must be the best recommendation for probing food as opposed to guessing.

    Anyway that’s what my mates are getting for Christmas and so long as they open it first thing on 25th December, they can start with testing the turkey – my mission for safe cooking commences!

    Hygiene Audit Systems sell the Comark PDQ400 Waterproof Pocket Digital Thermometer in their Safety Shop. Click here to buy.