Experimenting with sausage recipes is great fun and it doesn't really matter if you don't get it right first time, but where food hygiene is concerned you only get one chance. Don't subject yourself, friends, family and other test subject to illness which could become serious or life-threatening.
Here at sausagemaking.org we advocate the use of proper health and safety procedures. The following guidlines will help you to cook in a safe, hygienic way.
Bacteria is the largest cause of food poisoning. They exist everywhere in the environment and can be found in their millions on unwashed hands and dirty utensils. Bacteria need four key elements to survive and multiply; food, moisture, time and a favourable temperature. The optimum temperature for bacteria to grow and multiply is 4-63ºC (40-145 ºF); this is commonly known as the 'danger zone'. It is therefore crucial that during any food preparation or cooking process food is brought out of this temperature range as quickly as possible.
Salmonella bacteria live in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals and are passed in the excreta of an infected host. The bacteria can then be spread by untreated water, unwashed hands, flies or vermin. The foods most commonly infected with bacteria are poultry, eggs and all kinds of meat. Thorough cooking of these foods to a temperature of at least 74 ºC will destroy the salmonella bacteria.
Staphylococcus Aureus bacteria are most often found on sores and around the nose and throat and are usually passed onto foods via the hands. The foods most often contaminated with staphylococcus are moist, high protein foods such as meats, cheese, stews, gravies, potato salads, custards, and pastry fillings. There is no tangible way to tell if food is infected with staphylococcus; taste, aroma and appearance all seem normal. Temperature is the key to the development of staphylococcus. Cooked foods that are not cooled quickly enough or that are allowed to stand at room temperature are susceptible to infection.
The clostridium perfringens bacterial, like salmonella, is present in the intestines of humans and animals. The bacteria forms spores which can survive well in the soil and therefore vegetables can carry the organisms. Raw foods, meats and poultry are the common sources of the clostridium perfringens bacteria. Good temperature management is essential to avoid the spread of the bacteria.
Trichinella spiralis is a parasitic worm whose larval form may be present in the flesh of pork or wild game. The best way to irradicate the dangers of the Trinchina larva is thorough cooking of the pork or game, although curing and freezing are also effective. Always follow the recommended cooking temperatures in recipes etc. The internal temperature of cooked fresh pork must reach at least 65.5 ºC (150 ºF). All hot smoked sausages should be cooked to 68 ºC (155 ºF). Cold smoked or air dried sausages, whose formulas contain Prague powder #2, should be cooked to 49-57 ºC (120-135 ºF). Never judge whether the meat is cooked sufficiently by looks alone. Always check the internal temperature using an accurate meat thermometer.