Environmental health and hygiene on ships - The Galley

Contact us to send us news, scientific and technological advances or articles sharing your experiences on ship inspections

14 August 2014/Categories: Inspector News

  Environmental health and hygiene on ships - The Galley

This article has also been published in the SHIPSAN Newsletter under the section “Environmental health and hygiene on ships”. Section Editor: Martin Walker, Port Health Officer, Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority, Felixstowe, England

Martin Walker, Port Health Officer, Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority, Felixstowe, England

Key Message: Vero cytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) – a serious food poisoning bacteria that can affect crew and passengers on all vessels

When it comes to vessel inspection, a major area that is covered is the Food Safety side. The catering operation on ships will vary tremendously in terms of scale, processes employed, types of food handling employed for example and thus the risks posed to crew (and passengers where relevant) will vary considerably. One matter that will be common to all types of vessels will be the hazards that can arise where due care and attention are not paid.

Food poisoning is a longstanding issue and a number of micro-organisms can be a source. Most recently, the VTEC group of bacteria have come to prominence with a number of high profile cases, which sadly, have led to a number of deaths. The most important strains to cause illness (particularly serious) is E. coli O157 and E. coli O104. O157 is the strain that was linked to the death of 5 year old in South Wales 1 and 21 deaths in Scotland from contaminated meat 2, while O104 was associated with the 2011 outbreak focused in Northern Germany and linked to contaminated bean sprouts3. The latter outbreak led to EU legislation banning imports of bean sprouts from Egypt (now repealed).

E. coli are coliform bacteria that live in the intestines of humans and animals and whilst most are harmless, E. coli O157 can cause severe diarrhoea and kidney damage. Complications can arise (especially in children under 5) such as Hemolytic Uraemic Syndrome that can cause kidney failure and death. At the time of the outbreak in Northern Germany, Hamburg Port Health Center issued advice to seafarers, which can be found here detailing symptoms and actions that seafarers could take.

The risk from E. coli in food preparation is closely linked to cross contamination between raw food (such as unwashed fruit and vegetables, and raw meat) and food that would be classed as ready to eat such as cooked meats and washed fruit and vegetables). In the UK, the Food Standards Agency has issued advice to Food Businesses (that would apply equally to vessels operating in the UK) as to how to control the risk of E. coli O157. This can be found at The key control points are:

  1. Always separate – separate raw and ready to eat foods, paying attention to work areas, storage facilities, equipment, protective clothing, utensils etc.
  2. Clean effectively – this is not just visual cleanliness but sanitising through the use of appropriate disinfection.
  3. Heat cleaning – specifically for cleaning of utensils and cloths – the use of dishwashers and washing machines at the correct temperature and contact time.
  4. Handwashing – a key component of basic hygiene but stressing suitable techniques and facilities.
  5. Handling food – use of tongs/other utensils, disposable gloves between tasks.

For those involved in food preparation on board vessel and inspectors, attention to the risks and control measures posed is vital as the simple failings could lead to serious consequences to human health. Relevant control measures/corrective actions for all types of this can be found in the WHO Technical Handbook4 Area 2 Galley Pantry and Service Area and Area 3 Stores and for standards and requirements for passenger ships in the EU SHIPSAN TRAINET Manual5, Area 3 Food Safety (pages 41-72) .

Next issue, I will feature another relevant food safety issue in the Galley. If you have any good examples of cases that you would like to share with SHIPSAN ACT readers, please email details to me at

World Health Organization, International Health Regulations 2005, available through

4 World Health Organization, 2011 Handbook for Inspection of Ships and Issuance of Ship Sanitation Certificates available through
5 European Manual for Hygiene Standards and Communicable Diseases Surveillance on Passenger Ships (EU Ship Sanitation Training Network)


Number of views (9402)

Home  |  Contact Us  |  Links  |   Sitemap
This webportal arises from the EU SHIPSAN ACT Joint Action which has received funding from the European Union, in the framework of the Health Programme. Sole responsibility lies with the author and the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency (Chafea) is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.      

Copyright 2006 – 2022 / EU SHIPSAN