- Last Updated on Thursday, 29 December 2016 22:31
Despite attempts to improve standards of food hygiene, food poisoning is on the increase in developing countries. Here’s what can be done to help prevent it.
Food poisoning is an illness caused by the eating of contaminated food. Food is contaminated when it contains bacteria or toxins such as pesticides, or other harmful products such as pieces of glass or metal.
How can bacteria contaminate food?
Bacteria can be spread to food through the transfer from a contaminated source – such as hands, raw meat, pests, dust, dirty clothes or dirty utensils – to uncontaminated food. A large number of bacteria must enter the body before an adult will feel sick, but only a few bacteria can make a small child, an elderly person or sick person very ill.
Preventing food contamination
The following guidelines will promote safe food preparation and reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses:
- Dirty hands are one of the most common causes of food contamination. Wash hands regularly with clean water and soap and use a clean paper towel for drying. Fingernails should also be kept short and clean as they can harbour dirt and germs.
- Food handlers at food premises should maintain a very high standard of hygiene to prevent the growth and spreading of bacteria. They should also keep their clothes clean, wear protective headgear and refrain from wearing jewellery to reduce the risk of contamination. Food handlers should not sneeze or cough next to food, taste food with their fingers or smoke while preparing food.
- Utensils used to prepare food should be washed regularly, as dirty utensils are an ideal breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
- Keeping work and storage places clean prevents the spread of common pests, another source of contamination. These include rats, mice, flies and cockroaches, all of which are attracted by waste and leftover food. Solid waste should be collected regularly.
- Food should only be bought from clean shops where food is not stored on the floor and is covered properly to ensure protection from dust and harmful germs.
- Do not buy food if the packet is broken or tins are punctured or dented. Always look at the “best before” date when buying fresh foods. Ensure that meat products are bought from a butcher or supermarket as these are inspected regularly.
- When buying frozen food, check that the food products are properly packaged and that raw and cooked food are not kept in the same space. Refrigerate foods promptly and at a proper temperature (below 7°C) to slow the growth of bacteria.
- Transport food in clean bags and separate it from cleaning agents. Move and store food as quickly as possible to prevent changes in temperature. Keep food covered and out of direct sunlight, preferably in a cool area.
- Food should be cooked thoroughly, eaten immediately and stored carefully. Cooked foods should be thoroughly reheated before eating or be kept cold.
The World Health Organisation regards illness due to unsafe food as one of the most widespread health problems in the modern world.
Food poisoning prevention. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/food-poisoning/preventing-food-poisoning#1
Preventing food poisoning. Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Food-poisoning/Pages/Prevention.aspx
(Revised by M van Deventer)