Sunday, December 24, 2006

Food safety reminders

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), millions of people worldwide become sick and thousands die each day due to food-borne illness. In 2000 alone, about two million people died from diarrhea related diseases linked to contaminated food and drinking water.

Major food-borne illnesses are attributed to microorganisms in the form of Salmonella, Campylobacter, Escherichia coli or E. coli, and Vibrio cholerae. They enter the body through infected foods such as vegetables, eggs, raw milk, poultry and other meats.

Thus, proper food preparation is the key to avoiding food-borne illness.

As a guide, here are some tips taken from the WHO and the Philippines’ Department of Health:
  • Buy only fresh meats, marine products, fruits and vegetables. When buying processed, always check the expiry date. Do not buy canned goods with dents, bulges, deformation and broken/tampered seals.
  • Harmful micro-organisms are found in soil, water, animals and people. Thus, remember to always wash your hands thoroughly before handling food and sanitize the kitchen tools you use. Keep your kitchen clean and free from insects, pests and other animals. Use only clean and safe water in preparing food.
  • Raw foods also contain dangerous microorganisms so it is important to separate them from cooked foods. If possible, use a different set of knives and cutting board for handling raw meats. Wash vegetables well if you are to eat them fresh, such as in a salad.
  • Cook food thoroughly. According to studies, cooking food to a heat of 70 degrees centigrade can kill almost all harmful micro-organisms.
  • We usually leave food on the table until all family members have eaten. However, doing so can make food a breeding ground for bacteria. Thus, do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • When serving buffet-style, for example, keep the food hot at a minimum temperature of 60 degrees centigrade. Keep cold food cold by storing it in the refrigerator, which should be set below 5 degrees centigrade.
  • Store cooked foods in tightly sealed containers. On the other hand, food for infants should not be stored at all and must be freshly prepared.

Many thanks to the Department of Trade and Industry Region 12 for this info.

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