Safe food handling is a crucial matter in global health at the moment and should be handled with every seriousness that it deserves. This is for the fact that safe food handling has a lot to contribute to the global and national public health system. Recall that the current pandemic [Covid-19] raving the world, and has wiped millions of the world population has a serious trace to poor safe food handling and the world is suffering it today.
FOOD AS A BASIC NECESSITY OF LIFE – THE NEED FOR SAFE FOOD HANDLING
Food is one of the basic necessities of life but can also be a source of public health concern when not properly handled. This is the reason safe food handling practice should be everybody’s responsibility. Sources of threat to the food we eat could be from primary production, improper handling, and storage, improper preparation and cooking both at home and establishments where food is cooked and consumed.
It is now a universally accepted maxim that people have the right to expect their food to be safe, of good quality, and stable for consumption. As a food producer or vendor, you should know that Poor-quality food can destroy the commercial credibility of suppliers both nationally and internationally.
Each day, thousands of people universally die from food-borne diseases as a result of poor safe food handling. A study in the USA in 1995 estimated that the annual cost of the 3.3 – 12 million cases of food-borne diseases caused by seven pathogens was the US $6.5 – 35 billion. So, maintaining proper safe food handling practice is very necessary.
When it comes to safe food handling and preparation in our homes, the consumers are in charge. Our home is the final stop in the farm-to-table continuum, safe food handling is our best protection against home borne illness.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION [W.H.O] STAND ON FOOD SAFE HANDLING
The World health organization [W.H.O] has developed a global food hygiene message with 5 keys to safe food handling. The message explains safe food handling preparation and practices.
Safe food handling contributes to the health and productivity of a nation and provides an effective platform for development and poverty alleviation. It ensures food security which provides economic stability and self-reliance to a nation.
It is for this reason that the World Health Organization [W.H.O], our dear agency, the National Agency For Food and drug administration and control [NAFDAC], and other NGOs have devoted their lives and time to ensure that a blueprint for safe food handling is developed, and religiously followed.
KEYS TO SAFE FOOD HANDLING ACCORDING TO THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION [W.H.O]
Proper adherence to the 5 keys to safer food can protect from illnesses caused by unsafe food handling. It is intended to contain illnesses caused by handling infected animals such as avian flu. These keys to safer food have been translated into 30 languages of the world.
The keys to safe food handling, with their procedures, are as follows:
KEEP CLEAN: To keep clean, do the following
- Wash hands before handling food, and often during food preparation
- Wash hands after going to the toilet
- Wash and sanitize all surfaces and equipment used for food preparation
- Protect kitchen areas, and food from insects, pest, and other animals
SEPARATE RAW AND COOKED
- To separate raw and cooked poultry and seafood from other foods:
- Use separate equipment and utensils such as knives and cutting board for handling raw foods
- Store foods in containers to avoid contact between raw and prepared `foods
- Safe food handling, and preventing food-borne illness can be guaranteed through thorough food cooking. To do this:
- Meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood should be thoroughly cooked
- Foods like soups and stews should be brought to boiling to make sure that there have reached 700C. For meat and poultry, make sure that the juice is clear, not pink. Ideally, use a thermometer.
- Reheat cooked food thoroughly
KEEP FOOD AT A SAFE TEMPERATURE
- Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours
- Refrigerate promptly all cooked, and perishable food preferably below 50C
- Keep cooked food piping hot [more than 600C] before 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
- Use potable water in making ice block used in cooling drinks and other foods
- Select fresh and wholesome food
- Choose food processed for safety such as pasteurized milk
- Wash fruits and vegetables especially if eaten raw
- Do not use food beyond its expiry date
Let’s now consider the basics for safe food handling. This is more like the A-Z of safe food handling. We will also be considering some of the practical steps you must follow in each of these basics for safe food handling.
THE BASICS FOR SAFE FOOD HANDLING
- Purchase refrigerated or frozen food after selecting your nonperishables
- Never choose meat or poultry in packaging that is torn or leaking
- Always refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours
- Check the temperature of your refrigerator, and freeze with an appliance thermometer. The refrigerator should be at 5 0C or below and freeze at 18 0C or below.
- Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats, and a variety of meats within 2 days. Other beef, veal, lamb, or pork, within 3 to 5 days
- Perishable food such as meat and poultry should be wrapped securely to maintain quality and to prevent meat juice from getting unto other food
- To maintain quality when freezing meat and poultry in its original package, wrap the package again with foil or plastic wrap that is recommended for the freezer.
- High-acid canned food such as tomatoes, grapefruit, and pineapple can be stored unopened on the shelf for 12 to 18 months.
- Low-acid canned food such as meat, poultry, fish, and most vegetables will keep 2-5 years if the unopened can remain in good condition and has been stored in a cool, clean, and dry place.
- Discard cans that are leaking, dented, bulging, or rusted.
- Thawing is one of the safe food handling practices. Thawing is the process of defrosting frozen food. You need your refrigerator, ice water, and a microwave to thaw your food.
- The refrigerator allows slow, safe thawing. Make sure thawing meat and poultry juice do not drip into other foods.
- For faster thawing, place food in a leak-proof plastic bag, submerge in cold tap water, and change the water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately after thawing.
- Cook meat and poultry immediately after microwaving thawing.
- This is another important aspect of safe food handling. Do this in the preparatory stage of food:
- Always wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 minutes before and after handling food
- Do not cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juice away from other food.
- After cutting raw meats, wash hands, cutting board, and knife and countertop with hot soapy water.
- Marinate meat, and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.
- Sanitize the cutting board by using a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach in 1 quarter of water.
- Do not prepare food with fingers, with open wounds
- Avoid smoking cigarettes, or cigar and chewing kola nuts, chewing gum, or tobacco while preparing food.
- Cooking as a vital aspect of safe food handling procedures:
- Cook foods to the appropriate internal temperatures
- Check temperatures with a food thermometer
- As part of safe food handling measures:
- Hot food should be held at 60 0C or warmer.
- Cold food should be held at 5 0C or colder.
- When serving food at a buffet, keep hot food hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and a warming tray.
- Keep cold food cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice, or use small serving trays and replace them often.
- Use a food thermometer to check hot and cold holding temperatures
- Perishable foods should not be left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
- This is another angle that must be considered in ensuring safe food handling. Obviously, it ethically wrong to waste food. So, we recommend you prepare your food according to your family size, and at the right proportion. Plan your meal. However:
- Discard any leftover at the room temperature for more than 2 hours if the temperature was above 34 0C.
- Place food into shallow containers and immediately put it in the refrigerator or freezer for rapid cooling.
- Use most cooked leftovers within 3 to 4 days.
- As a measure for safe food handling, do this when you refreeze:
- Meat and poultry defrosted in the refrigerator may be refrozen before or after cooking.
- If thawed by other methods, cook before refreezing.
WHEN DOES FOOD POISONING OCCUR?
The essence of safe food handling measures is to prevent food poisoning. However, food poisoning occurs when food becomes unsafe because it has not been properly handled. Symptoms associated with food poisoning may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or cramp.
If you or a family member suddenly develops nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or cramp, you could possibly have food poisoning. It is not always easy to tell, symptoms can appear anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 weeks later. This is why safe food handling practice is necessary.
Most often, though people get sick within 4 to 48 hours after eating bad food, in more serious cases, food poisoning victims may have nervous system problems like paralysis, double vision, or trouble swallowing or breathing.
If the symptom is severe or the victim is very young, old, pregnant, or already ill, call your doctor or go to the hospital immediately. With you observing all safe food handling guidelines as prescribed above by the World Health Organization W.H.O], food poisoning can be avoided.
SAFE FOOD HANDLING SUMMARY
The good news is that most cases of food poisoning and other foodborne illnesses can be prevented altogether through safe food handling as follows:
- When you shop, buy cold food last and get it home fast.
- When you store food, keep food safe by refrigeration.
- When you prepare food, keep everything clean, and thaw food in food in the refrigerator.
- Cook thoroughly when you are cooking, and microwave safe.
- When you serve food, do not leave it out for more than 2 hours.
- When you handle leftover foods, use small containers for quick cooling. Microwave leftover foods with an approved lid or plastic wrap for thorough heating
- When in doubt of any food, throw it away.
- A full upright or Chest freezers can keep your food for about 2 days in the case of no power supply. However, if the power will be out for a long time, take your food to a friend’s freezer. If in doubt, thaw it out.
- Discard any food with a strange color or odor immediately.
Safe food handling practice should be a priority for every household globally going by the collapse in global health. There are series of strange disease outbreaks globally with no vaccines for their cure. These could have come from anywhere and can be contracted through any medium. This why safe food handling practice is needed at this point in time in our national life.
All food should be handled with care to protect everyone from food-borne diseases. It takes only a small number of pathogenic microorganisms to cause food-borne illness. It is, therefore, necessary that a high standard of personal hygiene and safe food handling practice be maintained.
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Williams Education Foundation blog Team!