Food Safety &Your Health

Mrs. Sunita Chowdhury, Chief Dietician, BLK Super Speciality Hospital, Pusa Road, New Delhi 110005.

Food safety is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent food borne illness. Food borne diseases take a major toll on health. Millions of people fall ill and many die as a result of eating unsafe food.

As part of its global strategy to decrease the burden of food borne diseases, WHO identified the need to communicate simple global health messages based on scientific evidence to train all types of food.

Food can transmit disease from person to person as well as serve as a growth medium for bacteria that can cause food poisoning. In developed countries there are intricate standards for food preparation, whereas in lesser developed countries the main issue is simply the availability of adequate safe water, which is usually a critical item.

Foodborne illness (also foodborne disease and colloquially referred to as food poisoning) is any illness resulting from the consumption of contaminated food, pathogenic bacteria, viruses, or parasites that contaminate food, as well as chemical or natural toxins such as poisonous mushrooms.

Foodborne illness usually arises from improper handling, preparation, or food storage. Good hygiene practices before, during, and after food preparation can reduce the chances of contracting an illness.

The action of monitoring food to ensure that it will not cause foodborne illness is known as food safety. Foodborne disease can also be caused by a large variety of toxins that affect the environment. These can also be caused by pesticides or medicines in food and naturally toxic substances such as poisonous mushrooms or reef fish.

The five key principles of food hygiene, according to WHO, are:

Keep clean :

  • Wash your hands before handling food and often during food preparation
  • Wash your hands after going to the toilet
  • Wash and sanitize all surfaces and equipment used for food preparation
  • Protect kitchen areas and food from insects, pests and other animals.

Separate raw and cooked :

  • Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods
  • Use separate equipment and utensils such as knives and cutting boards for handling raw foods
  • Store food in containers to avoid contact between raw and prepared foods

Cook thoroughly :

  • Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood
  • Bring foods like soups and stews to boiling to make sure that they have reached 70°C.
  • For meat and poultry, make sure that juices are clear, not pink. Ideally, use a thermometer
  • Reheat cooked food thoroughly

Keep food at safe temperatures :

  • Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours
  • Refrigerate promptly all cooked and perishable food (preferably below 5°C)
  • Keep cooked food piping hot (more than 60°C) prior to serving
  • Do not store food too long even in the refrigerator
  • Do not thaw frozen food at room temperature

Use safe water and raw materials :

  • Use safe water or treat it to make it safe
  • Select fresh and wholesome foods
  • Choose foods processed for safety, such as pasteurized milk
  • Wash fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw
  • Do not use food beyond its expiry date

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, is the regulating body related to food safety and laying down of standards of food in India. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an agency of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.