Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Is Your Food Safe?

Researchers estimate that each year about 30% of people in developed countries suffer from foodborne illness. In poorer countries, foodborne and waterborne diseases kill millions - mostly children - every year. "In the markets here (Nigeria), food items are exposed to flies, rain, wind, and dust," says Bola, a concerned father. "When I read or hear about food diseases, I feel scared. I want to protect my family."

Is it possible to protect your family from unsafe food? The Canadian Food Inspection Agency states, "If unsafe food gets into our grocery stores, it makes headlines. And rightly so. But unsafe food, which could lead to foodborne illness, can also happen from what we do - or don't do - in our own kitchens." So what can we do to protect our families from foodborne illness? Four ways are considered here.


♦ Plan your route
"Shop for non-perishable food first," advises the Food Safety Information Council in Australia. "Leave [items from the fridges and freezers to the end of your shopping." Also, if you are buying hot food, pick it up just before you return home."

♦ Favor fresh food
Try to purchase fresh food when possible, example, in many countries where an open market serves the people, shop early when fruits and vegetables are fresher. Also, shop local as fruits and vegetables did not have to picked green (unripe) in order to put them on a shelf many days later for you to pick over. Local markets cut back on transport time, and it is always a good idea to support your local farmers so that they will keep producing and making freshies available for you.

♦ Inspect your food
Ask yourself, "Is the skin on my produce intact? Is the meat free of unusual odors?" If the food is prewrapped, inspect the packaging. Damaged packages can allow poisonous bacteria to enter the food.
Chung Fai, who buys food at a supermarket in Hong Kong says, "It is also necessary to check the expiration date printed on packaged food." Why? Experts warn that even if 'expired' food looks, smells, and tastes good, it can still make you sick.

♦ Pack safely
If you use a reusable shopping bag or plastic bin, wash it out frequently with hot soapy water. Carry meat and fish in separate bins or bags so they do not contaminate other food.
Enrico and Loredana, a couple in Italy, shop locally. "That way, we don't have to transport food very far and risk spoilage." If it will take longer than 30 minutes to return home, put chilled or frozen foods into an insulated bag, or in some other way, make sure it is kept cool.


Just as a surgeon protects the patients by washing his/her hands, sterilizing the instruments, and maintaining a clean operating room, you can protect your family by keeping yourself, your kitchen and your food clean.
♦  Wash your hands
The Public Health Agency of Canada states that "hands spread an estimated 80% of common infectious diseases like the common cold and flu." So wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before eating, after using the toilet, and when you prepare a meal.

♦ Keep you kitchen clean
One study revealed that while the bathroom tended to be the cleanest place in the home, "the sites in the households that were contaminated with the most fecal bacteria were the sponge/dishcloths in the kitchen."  Therefore, change dishcloths frequently, and use hot soapy water or disinfectant to clean kitchen surfaces. 

Before produce is sold, it may have been contaminated by unclean water, animals, fecal matter, or other raw food items. Therefore, even if you plan to peel fruits or vegies, rinse them thoroughly to remove harmful bacteria.

Separate raw meat
[For those who eat or use meat in their kitchen] To prevent the spread of bacteria, seal or securely wrap all raw meat, poultry, and seafood, and separate them from other food. Use a separate cutting board and knife for those foods, or wash your cutting board and knife thoroughly with soap and hot water before and after raw meat or seafood touches it.
 ♦ Rinse produce

A careless cook in ancient Israel gathered wild gourds although "he was familiar with them". He added the unfamiliar food to a stew, and the eaters, who feared the food may have been poisoned, cried out, "There is death in the pot." (2 Kings 4:38-41)

As the above example illustrates, food that is prepared carelessly warrants caution, as it can be harmful or even deadly. To prevent foodborne illness, therefore, learn to prepare and store food carefully.
♦ Do not thaw meat at room temperature
"Even though the center of the meat may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter," says the US Department of Agriculture, "the outer layer of the food could be in the 'danger zone', between 4C and 60C - temperatures at which bacteria multiply rapidly." Instead, thaw food inthe refrigerator, in a microwave, or under cold water in a package that will not leak.

♦ Cook thoroughly
According to the World Health Organization, "proper cooking kills almost all dangerous microorganisms." When cooking food, especially soups and stews, make sure that it reaches a temperature of at least 70C." Since it can be difficult to judge the internal temperature of some dishes, many cooks use a meat thermometer.

♦ Serve soon
Cooked food should not be left at room temperature for too long, so serve it soon, even immediately, to prevent spoilage. Keep cold food cold and hot food hot. You can keep hot meat in an oven set at approximately 93C.

♦ Handle extra food wisely
Serve food immediately and immediately after eating, store food that will be eaten soon in the fridge. Otherwise, packaging the food for better preservation and lower bacteria build-up for the freezer is a good idea.

Case study: Jeff, a healthy and energetic 38-yr-old man, took his family out to eat at a restaurant near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US. A month later, Jeff died of acute liver failure. The culprit? Green onions in his meal - contaminated with hepatitis A.

Almost half of all money spent on food in one Western land is spent in restaurants. Yet, in that same land, restaurant food is associated with about half the foodborne disease outbreaks. True - if you choose to eat at a restaurant where someone else purchases the ingredients, prepares the food and cleans the kitchen, life is very convenient, but you can make some healthful decisions when eating out - where you decide to eat, what you eat, and how you pack any food that you take home.
♦ Look around you
Are tables, tablecloths, utensils, and servers clean and tidy? If not, go elsewhere. In some countries, health officials routinely inspect and grade restaurants for cleanliness, and they post their results for the public to read.

♦ Beware of doggie bags
The US Food and Drug Association advises, "If you won't be arriving home within 2 hours of being served (sooner if temperatures are above 32C), don't take the leftovers home with you." If you have leftovers, go directly home after your meal and store them in the refrigerator.
This information comes from 'Awake!" June 2012 issue.

No comments:

Post a Comment