In a foodservice operation nothing can rival the
importance of the sanitary aspects of food preparation
and service. Carelessly handled food is easily
contaminated with pathogenic organisms that may lead
This chapter discusses the methods of
preventing illnesses arising from poor sanitary practices
in the preparation and service of food.
In addition to the hazards of food contamination,
which Mess Management Specialist (MS) personnel
have always contended with, modern warfare has added
other hazardous chemical, biological, and radiological
agents that may be used in any future war. Protection of
the food supply and decontamination measures in the
galley and messing areas are vital to the defense of the
ship or station.
Food-borne illnesses can incapacitate large
numbers of personnel in a short period of time. In
addition to the toxins or poisons produced by bacterial
growth, certain foods are inherently or naturally
poisonous. The poisons in these foods tend to attack the
nervous system resulting in such symptoms as weakness
or paralysis, numbness, tingling of the ears,
apprehension, and even death.
Food-borne illnesses can be classified into the three
following basic types:
natural or chemical food
poisoning, food intoxication, and food infection.
NATURAL OR CHEMICAL FOOD
Both natural and chemical food poisonings are
caused by man; mans carelessness, indifference, or
ignorance. Natural and chemical food poisonings are
grouped together as one food-borne illness because they
both occur naturally.
The characteristics that
differentiate natural and chemical poisonings are
Natural Food Poisoning. In this type of food-borne
illness, the food in its natural state contains elements
poisonous to humans. As an MS, you will learn of many
new foods that are not common to the United States.
Some of these foods are from plants and animals that
can cause severe illness and even death when consumed.
Every effort is made to keep poisonous plants off a
ship. But sometimes they do get aboard. Toadstools,
hemlock mussels (such as those found on the West
Coast during the summer), tropical fish (such as
toadfish, puffing fish, and certain members of the jack
fish family), and in tropical waters, at certain seasons of
the year, barracuda can cause poisoning and death.
Some types of mushrooms also contain natural poisons.
Only an expert can decide whether or not a certain
mushroom is fit to eat. The safest rule is to never use
unfamiliar foods unless your medical officer approves
Chemical Food Poisoning. Some food-borne
illnesses are caused by chemical poisons. In the case of
chemical food poisoning, the poisons are introduced
into the food accidentally. The following types of
chemical poisoning may be experienced in foodservice
Antimony poisoning is caused by eating food
cooked in poorly coated or chipped enameled cooking
Cadmium poisoning may take place if chilled acid
foods or drinks are allowed to stand in cadmium-plated
metal containers before they are served. Illness may
strike 10 to 15 minutes after the food is eaten.
Lemonade, fruit punch, tomatoes, raspberry gelatin
dessert, and tea containing lemon juice can be
contaminated by cadmium. Also, ice trays and metal
pitchers plated with cadmium can cause chemical
poisoning when filled with cold acid foods.
Cyanide poisoning may result if silverware is not
properly washed and sanitized after detarnishing.