When lakhs throng a food festival in the capital, that tells a story – Delhiites drool over street food and love it to the core.
However, with the incidence of diseases on the rise – and the World Health Organisation declaring 2015’s World Health Day (WHO) theme as Food Safety, doctors give simple tips for revelers to be Street Food Smart and say that over 80% of diseases can be prevented if they follow a 5 H formula.
This is in addition to the Five Keys to Safer Food prescription by WHO.
Have it hot; wash your hands; make sure the food is covered or hidden; don’t be in a haste to eat anything which is cut and kept exposed; and ensure not many hours have elapsed between the time the item was cooked and when you are having it.
Dr Yogesh Batra, HoD, Gastroenterology & Hepatology, and Dr Sunita Roy Chowdhury, Chief Dietician at BLK Super Speciality Hospital said often people tend to forget the fundamentals and this World Health Day it would be appropriate to revisit these to ensure we are all Street Food Smart. “Follow the fundamentals, and safety would follow you,” said the doctors, who have prepared a 5-H Precaution Protocol for all those who are compulsive street food enthusiasts.
The doctors, however, advise all to also follow the five keys to safer food prescription by WHO: Keep clean, Separate raw and cooked, Cook thoroughly, Keep food at safe temperatures, and Use safe water and raw materials.
“According to WHO, unsafe food—containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances—causes more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. Foodborne and waterborne diarrhoeal diseases kill an estimated 2 million people annually, including many children. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, the elderly and the sick,” said Dr Batra. All this can be prevented if we follow simple prescriptions. “They sound simple, but takes a lot of effort to adhere to,” he adds.
The WHO says that “the street food sector plays an important role in providing accessible, low-cost meals for urban populations, particularly those in many developing countries. Contamination of street food by chemical and microbiological pathogens is believed to be a significant contributor to foodborne diseases.”
Dr Chowdhury adds that poor sanitation, lack of infrastructure and improper food handling are the main risk factors associated with street foods and it is important that food revelers are aware of these risks.
“Simple precautions and understanding of the food eco-system is critical to prevention,” she adds.
Foodborne Illnesses (Source: WHO)
Foodborne pathogens can cause severe diarrhoea or debilitating infections including meningitis. Chemical contamination can lead to acute poisoning or long-term diseases, such as cancer. Foodborne diseases may lead to long-lasting disability or death. Examples of unsafe food include uncooked foods of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with faeces, and shellfish containing marine biotoxins.
The main causes of foodborne illness are:
• Chemicals (naturally occurring, and man made)
Safety Tips (Source: WHO)
- When eating food from street vendors or buffets in hotels and restaurants, make sure that cooked food is not in contact with raw food that could contaminate it.
- Make sure the food you eat is prepared and kept in good hygienic conditions (clean, cooked thoroughly, and kept at the right temperature, i.e. hot or refrigerated/on ice).
- Make sure the food you eat is prepared and kept in good hygienic conditions (clean, cooked thoroughly, and kept at the right temperature, i.e. hot or refrigerated/on ice)