10 Food Safety Tips to Take with You...Anytime, Anywhere
by: Woman Today
When was the last time you felt unwell, and put it down to "something you ate"?
The fact is that food-borne illness is so common, many of us treat it as normal, not realizing how easy it is to avoid suffering these unpleasant symptoms.
In spite of the advances in food variety, convenience and safety, the World Health Organization (WHO) says cases of disease caused by microbiological-contaminated food are on the increase both in developed and developing countries. Food and water-borne diarrheal diseases kill an estimated 2.1 million people annually in developing countries (FAO/WHO Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators, January 28-30, 2002). Many more children and adults suffer the effects of food-borne illness without ever seeing a doctor and thus the majority of cases go unreported.
Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever as a result of eating foods contaminated with bacteria are very common.
When was the last time you felt unwell, and put it down to "something you ate"? The fact is that food-borne illness is so common, many of us treat it as normal, not realizing how easy it is to avoid suffering these unpleasant symptoms.
Here, Georgina Cairns of the Asian Food Information Centre, summarizes the most common causes of food-borne illness.
Maintaining food in the danger zone. Food poisoning bacteria grow best in temperatures ranging from 5ºC to 60ºC. This is called the temperature danger zone. The following factors are likely to place food in the danger zone: preparation of food long before consumption; leaving prepared food at a temperature that permits bacterial proliferation for too long; or inadequate heating.
Cross-contamination between cooked and raw food. Bacteria from raw food can contaminate ready-to-eat or contaminated food if the latter is not stored properly. Raw food should always be stored in the lowest part of the refrigerator, and ready-to-eat food on the shelves above (to prevent liquids dripping from the raw food on to the cooked food). All foods should be stored in clean non-toxic washable containers and fully covered.
Contamination through handling. During food preparation, hands, utensils and equipment such as cutting boards, cleaning cloths can become contaminated with bacteria from raw food. If hands, utensils and equipment are then used to prepare ready-to-eat or cooked food, without first being thoroughly washed, food can become contaminated.
Water-borne infection. Water used for drinking or preparing food can be a major source of illness if not properly treated. When in doubt, boil water first or drink fluids from sealed bottles or cans, and avoid ice.
According to Georgina Cairns, "The most important causes of food-borne illness are errors in food handling and preparation at home, restaurants and other eating places. A major education programme for food handlers and consumers is urgently needed, and it is one of the most effective means of reducing this serious public health problem.
The good news, however, is that simply by following a few simple rules and guidelines we can all protect ourselves and our family from these illnesses.
The Asian Food Information Centre has developed a list of 10 essential tips to protect you and your Family from food-borne illness.
"Best before" and "use-by" dates should be taken seriously; out-of-date products should not be purchased and should be reported to store managers. If packaged, or if damaged packaging is discovered at home, it should be returned or reported to the retailer or food processor.
Adulteration of food involves using inferior, cheaper ingredients to cheat consumers and undercut competition. The sale of misbranded, mislabeled and contaminated food should be reported to relevant authorities. Reporting incidents can help authorities nab and punish errant retailers and reduce the recurrence of these incidents.
Store raw foods, especially meat, fish and seafood at the bottom of the refrigerator, and cooked foods at the top. Store foods wrapped or properly covered.
Do not put hot food in the refrigerator, as this will cause the temperature to rise.
Store cans, packets and bottles in a cool dry place, and protected from insect and rodent pests.
FOOD PREPARATION AND EATING
Remember to always wash hands before preparing foods or eating.
Equipment used to prepare raw foods must be washed thoroughly after use, and always before being used to prepare foods which are already cooked, or are to be consumed raw.
Choose food stalls, restaurants or other eating places carefully. Make sure staff, cutlery and other equipment looks clean and tidy. This is a good indicator or hygiene standards of the eating place, including those "behind-the-scenes."
Hot food should be very hot, and cold food should be chilled. Avoid outlets where foods are left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Particular care needs to be taken about food prepared in large quantities, in advance or under difficult conditions - at symposia meetings, large social events, outdoor events, etc.
If you have any doubts about raw foods, such as fruit and vegetables, the golden rule is "boil it, cool it, peel it, or forget it."