It's World Health Day today!
Let me remind you something important on this occasion. WHO warns us on food safety! Did you know that food borne diseases can cause death?
WHO says that unsafe food is becoming a growing global threat. More than 200 diseases are spread through food.
Foodborne diseases are basically infections of the GI (gastro intestinal) tract that occur due to consumption of contaminated food. Most food-borne illness result from pathogenic microorganisms like the bacteria, virus and other parasites that infect the food we eat. Environmental contaminants that include pesticides and other chemicals also contaminate our food. Food safety therefore is a very essential aspect to prevent germs from getting into foods and water we consume.
The first question before anything else is, how does food get contaminated?
- Food can get contaminated at any stage i.e. during its production, processing or cooking.
- Use of unwashed cutting boards, utensils, countertops and other kitchen articles.
- Use of any unclean article to cook which was previously used to prepare raw food.
12 Ways to prevent food contamination
- Washing your hands well! Washing your hands well before eating prevent germs from spreading. Rinse your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds while cleaning the back of your hands, wrists and gaps between your fingers.
- Use a sanitizer when water is unavailable. Rub your hands together with the sanitizer covering all the surfaces of your hands and fingers.
- Cautious shopping helps! Whether during shopping at the grocery mart or storing food in the refrigerator, pack meat separately from foods that are eaten raw.
- Rinse your vegetables carefully before cooking. In the case of leafy veggies, wash the individual leaves properly. For root vegetables such as potatoes, radish and carrots since they often have traces of soil on them that can contain harmful bacteria they need to be thoroughly cleaned. You may use turmeric or vinegar solution to wash your veggies.
- Store food wisely! Set your refrigerator for 40°F (5°C) and your freezer to 0°F (-18°C) or lower. These chilly temperatures will help keep any bacteria in your foods from multiplying. Store seafood, raw meat, poultry on bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Have it stored in a sealed container or plastic bag. This ensures that the juices don’t drip onto ready-to-eat foods and cause contamination. Refrigerate perishable products as soon as possible after grocery shopping.
- Buy locally! Contrary to the popular belief that foreign goods are better, what you buy from your local producer may be fresher and economical. Less traveled foods are healthier.
- Eat fast! Intrigued? I mean, avoid storing natural foods for long in the refrigerator. A carrot bought fresh and stored for a week may not be as nutritious as one bought and used within a day.
- Never eat old food even if it seems to look and smell okay. Do not consume any food that is past its ‘use by' date.
- Place cooked food on a clean plate. Do not use the same plate that you used for cutting vegetables or had any raw item places on it. Even vegetables can carry harmful pathogens.
- Do not buy food in cans that are found to be bulging or puffed up. Also avoid buying food found in cracked jars or with loose lids.
- Don’t allow pets inside the kitchen, near the food items or on bench tops.
- Regularly wash your dish cloths and sponges with hot water.
How to cook your food safely!
The way food is cooked is as important as the way it is stored to prevent food poisoning. Eat the cooked food while it is still hot. Don’t leave the meal to stand at room temperature. Do not eat raw or undercooked eggs, meat, chicken or any fish food. The modern days demand the use of a food thermometer while cooking chicken to read its internal temperature as it is the only way to check whether its cooked properly or not. When cooking in the microwave, stir food frequently to avoid uneven cooking.
Foodborne illness can make people very sick, cause extreme discomfort and in some cases be extremely serious and life threatening. Since these illnesses are preventable, protect yourself by buying fresh foods, storing them properly, avoiding contamination and keeping them properly refrigerated.
Eat healthy and safe!