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FATTOM & Foodborne Illness

Foodborne Illness From Professional Kitchens

A recent study by The University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute, found that Complex or Multi-ingredient dishes often prepared in restaurants or food service establishments are ranked 3rd in the Top 10 Combinations that burden the public health. The study found that 70% of Salmonella outbreaks, and 80% of Norovirus outbreaks came from food prepared in professional kitchens.


Pathogens are any microorganisms or viruses that can cause disease. There are 4 types of pathogens that you need to be aware of. Bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi are serious concerns for all food handlers. As a foodhandler it is your responsibility to keep yourself and your staff as informed as possible to help prevent outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.

Understanding how pathogens grow is imperative for you and your staff to help keep  foodborne illnesses from occurring. There are 6 conditions in which pathogens need to grow.  FAT TOM is a common term used to help remember these conditions. It would be in your best interest to know these conditions and train others working in your establishment to memorize these conditions, and know the importance of this information.



  • Food: In order to grow, pathogens need energy. The energy from foods come from carboydrates and proteins.
  • Acidity:  Food with little or no acidity are foods that pathogens grow best. Unfortunately, that describes most foods we eat.
  • Temperature:  Pathogens grow very well in foods that are held in the temperature danger zone. (between 41 degrees F-135 degrees F).
  • Time:  Pathogens need time to grow. If foods are in the danger temperature zone for 4 hours or longer, they will grow to levels high enough to potentially make someone sick.
  • Oxygen:  Pathogens can grow with or without oxygen.
  • Moisture:  Pathogens have to have moisture to grow.


a.  Any type of calorie can be a source in which pathogens can grow. For example, some melons have low calorie levels, but are extremely high in moisture levels. More moisture equals faster growth.
b.  Any type of pathogen will grow with oxygen except Botulism. Botulism does not need oxygen to grow, but will grow in low acidity foods.
c.   Putting your foods in refrigerators or freezers will not stop pathogens from growing. If you have foods that have met any of the conditions in which pathogens need to grow, refrigeration and freezing will only slow the growth process.

Top Ten Food Combinations

A research study conducted by The University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute, ranked the TOP TEN FOOD COMBINATIONS with the greatest burden on public health. Here are the results:
1.   Poultry - Campylobacter
2.   Pork - Toxaplasma
3.   Deli Meats - Listeria
4.   Poultry - Salmonella
5.   Dairy Products - Listeria
6.   Complex Foods (multi ingredient foods) - Salmonella
7.    Complex Foods (multi ingredient foods) - Norovirus
8.   Produce - Salmonella
9.   Beef -Toxoplasma
10. Eggs - Salmonella

There are many ways in which you as the professional can help control foodbourne illnesses.  Know them and teach your staff.

Team 101 has put together a temperature chart for cooking proteins.  It can be accessed by clicking:  Protein Temperature Chart.

For a printable version of the FATTOM chart go to: Fat Tom Chart

Related articles: Steps you can take to help prevent food-bourne illness

Contact Team 101 for a free consultation and analysis on becoming a safe environment for preparing food.

Resources: Emerging Pathogens Institute {EPI}

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