• 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.