Food safety

Dr Parvesh Kumar
From “Farm to plate, make food safe”, the food which we consume undergoes a lot of process.It is food only that makes people healthy and It is food only that makes people diseased.
It is important to ensure if the food you are consuming is making you healthier or dragging you towards disease. Food safety is everybody’s concern, and it is difficult to find anyone who has not encountered an unpleasant moment of foodborne illness at least once in the past year. Foodborne illnesses may result from the consumption of food contaminated by microbial pathogens, toxic chemicals or radioactive materials. Food allergy is another emerging problem. While many foodborne diseases may be self-limiting, some can be very serious and even result in death. Ensuring food safety is becoming increasingly important in the context our food supply becomes increasingly globalized, the need to strengthen food safety systems in and between all countries is becoming more and more evident. Food Safety refers to handling, preparing and storing food in a way to best reduce the risk of individuals becoming sick from foodborne illnesses.
Food safety is a global concern that covers a variety of different areas of everyday life.
The only aim is to prevent food from becoming contaminated and causing food poisoning. This is achieved through a variety of different avenues, like
Properly cleaning and sanitizing all surfaces, equipment and utensils
Maintaining a high level of personal hygiene, especially hand-washing, Storing, chilling and heating food correctly with regards to temperature, environment and equipment
Implementing effective pest control
Comprehending food allergies, food poisoning and food intolerance
Regardless of why you are handling food, whether as part of your job or cooking at home, it is essential to always apply the proper food safety principles. Any number of potential food hazards exist in a food handling environment, many of which carry with them serious consequences. The introduction of bottled drinking water and its popularity in urban areas has contributed to prevent waterborne and diarrhoeal diseases in countries with inconsistent water treatment. Political awareness and consumer education on food safety will help strengthen enforcement of food standards, improve hygienic practices, and prevent foodborne illnesses. The “WHO Five keys to safer food” serve as the basis for educational programmes to train food handlers and educate the consumers. They are especially important in preventing foodborne illness. The Five keys are as follows.
Keep food surfaces clean. Wash all utensils, plates, platters, and cutlery as soon as used.
Separate raw food from cooked food.
Cook food thoroughly, to the appropriate temperature.
Keep food at safe temperatures, both for serving and storage.
Use safe water and raw materials.
Ensuring food safety starts with production, at the farm level. In this regard, misuse of agro-chemicals, including pesticides, growth hormones and veterinary drugs may have harmful effects on human health. The microbial and chemical risks could be introduced at the farm-level (e.g. using water contaminated by industrial waste or poultry farm waste for irrigation of crops). Good agricultural practices should be applied to reduce microbial and chemical hazards. Ensuring food safety requires due attention during harvest, transport, processing, storage and finally during food preparation and storage by consumers. Processed, frozen or ready-to-eat food is gaining popularity in recent years due to changing food habits, product diversification, busy lifestyle and mass production practices. In urban settings, there is a growing tendency to buy meat, milk and vegetables on the weekend and store these items in the freezer or refrigerator. Microwave ovens are often used for reheating of food. However, while using a refrigerator and microwave are part of daily life in urban settings, most users and food handlers rarely have a chance to learn how to safely store and reheat food.
Check for cleanliness: see if the retailer you buy from follows proper food handling techniques
Separate foods: separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods at all times
Do not buy open or bulging jars or cans: canned foods should be sterile. A bulging lid may mean that the food was under-processed and is contaminated; openings in the can may lead to contamination
Do not buy frozen food with damaged packaging: packaging on frozen foods, as with cans and jars, should not be opened
Grab frozen foods and perishables last: place meat, poultry, fish, and eggs in the cart first, so that their juices do not drip onto other foods. Carefully choose fresh eggs: buy only non-cracked, refrigerated eggs, Be mindful of temperature: place all perishable foods that should be refrigerated or frozen in the appropriate place within two hours. wash hands and cooking surfaces thoroughly. Wash hands and kitchen utensils with soap and water after preparing each food item. do not use the same utensils or surfaces for raw meat, poultry, and seafood as those used for other foods Cook (at safe temperatures)
One of my major pet peeves is seeing someone cook while wearing jewellery.
Why anyone would (for example) mix ingredients with their hands, without first removing their rings, is totally beyond my comprehension! Your jewellery may be beautiful, but the microscopic germs lurking on and under its surfaces could put you out of action for days!So before you startcooking, remove the BLING!It should go without saying, but it’s really essential that the rules of good hygiene must be closely followed in the kitchen.
The germs that can cause food poisoning are usually controlled by heating (cooking) and/or chilling (refrigerating) our food, but given half a chance, they can easily spread around the kitchen – via hands, chopping boards, cloths, knives and other utensils.Use paper towels whenever possible, if you can afford to buy them. Dish towels can be a source of cross-contamination so use them sparingly and change them regularly. Be sure to wash them in a hot-wash cycle.
(The author is Assistant Commissioner, Food Safety Jammu.)