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​WORLD HEALTH DAY - From Farm to Plate, Making Food Safe

13-Apr-2015.By: Elsie Solomon


No human in his right senses consciously inflict harm on himself; it's not in our nature to act as such. As much effort as we put into staying away from diseases, sicknesses, viral infections and more; one way or the other some still find their ways to our homes and bodies.

This is not to say that being sick-free for a lifestyle is unattainable though, but the chances are very slim. Recent discoveries revealed that the conscious effort put into attaining a thing often results in positive and better results. This also means if we make concerted efforts to always eat healthy foods that is hygienically safe and free from disease, the percentage of food borne diseases will drop drastically in our nation and globally.

This year’s World Health Day celebration comes with the theme "From farm to plate, making food safe". WHO revealed that the theme aims to re-orientate people on the global threats posed by unsafe foods, and the need for coordinated, cross-border action across the entire food supply chain caused by foodborne illnesses. Food poisoning, also called food-borne illness, is a common, distressing, and sometimes life-threatening problem. People infected with food-borne organisms may have no symptoms or may have symptoms ranging from mild intestinal discomfort to severe dehydration and bloody diarrhea.

The WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said that Food production in recent times has been industrialized and its trade and distribution have been globalized. These changes introduce multiple new opportunities for food to become contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals. Dr Chan added that a local food safety problem can rapidly become an international emergency.

This lays emphasis on the toll foodborne diseases outbreak can take in infecting the world. Foodborne disease is vastly more complicated when a single plate or package of food contains ingredients from multiple countries. As irregular as the subject sounds, it poses deadly threats to the human race.

Unsafe food can contain harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, and cause more than 200 diseases - ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. Examples of unsafe food include undercooked foods of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with faeces, and shellfish containing marine biotoxins.

It's easy to live and eat healthy and safe. It starts with the consciousness of good hygiene and safety when preparing, serving, storing food safely, buying and eating healthy foods in our homes and outside the homes. Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food. Cross-contamination is how bacteria can be spread.

Always start with a clean scene by washing our hands with warm water and soap. Wash cutting boards, dishes, counter-tops and utensils with hot soapy water. Proper hand hygiene may eliminate nearly half of all cases of foodborne illness and significantly reduce the spread of the common cold and flu that can cause foodborne diseases.

Depending on the type of infection, people can even die as a result of food poisoning. That is why it is very important to take steps to prevent food poisoning. WebMd gave the following general guidelines to avoid contracting a food-borne illness.

  • Make sure that food from animal sources (meat, dairy, eggs) is cooked thoroughly or pasteurized. Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the food.
  • Avoid eating raw or spoiled meats and eggs. Check expiration dates on meats and eggs before purchasing and again before preparing.
  • Carefully select and prepare fish and shellfish to ensure quality and freshness.
  • If you are served an undercooked meat or egg product in a restaurant, send it back for further cooking. You should also ask for a new plate.
  • Be careful that you don't let juices or drippings from raw meat, poultry, shellfish, or eggs contaminate other foods.
  • Do not leave eggs, meats, poultry, seafood, or milk for extended periods of time at room temperature. Promptly refrigerate leftovers and food prepared in advance.
  • Wash your hands, cutting boards, and knives with antibacterial soap and warm to hot water after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs. Wooden cutting boards are not recommended, because they can be harder to clean.
  • Wash your vegetables, fruits and perishable food items well with little salt to layoff microscopic bacteria (unseen germs) before using them to cook.
  • Avoid unpasteurized milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk.
  • Do not thaw foods at room temperature. Thaw foods in the refrigerator and use them promptly. Do not refreeze foods once they have been completely thawed.
  • Keep the refrigerator at 40 degrees Farenheit or lower, and the freezer at 0 degrees Farenheit or lower.
  • Wash raw vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating, especially those that will not be cooked. Avoid eating alfalfa sprouts until their safety can be assured. Methods to decontaminate alfalfa seeds and sprouts are being investigated.
  • Drink only pasteurized juice or cider. Commercial juice with an extended shelf life that is sold at room temperature (juice in cardboard boxes, vacuum sealed juice in glass containers) has been pasteurized, although this is generally not indicated on the label. Juice concentrates are also heated sufficiently to kill bacteria.
  • Be aware of proper home-canning procedures. Instructions on safe home-canning can be obtained from county extension services or from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • If you are ill with diarrhea or vomiting, do not prepare food for others, especially infants, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems, because they are more vulnerable to infection.
  • Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles, turtles, birds, or after contact with human or pet feces.
  • Breastfeed your baby if possible. Mother's milk is the safest food for young infants. Breastfeeding may prevent many food-borne illnesses and other health problems.
  • Those at high risk, such as pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and the elderly should also:
  • -Avoid soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, and Mexican-style cheese. (Hard cheeses, processed cheeses, cream cheese, and cottage cheese are safe.)
  • Cook foods until they are steaming hot, especially leftover foods or ready-to-eat foods, such as hot dogs.

Food poisoning is real, let's make it our sole obligation to live healthy, avoid foodborne diseases as much as we can. Food poisoning symptoms often starts within hours of eating contaminated food, often include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Most often, food poisoning is mild and resolves without treatment. But some people need to go to the hospital.

Contamination of food can happen at any point during its production: growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping or preparing. Cross-contamination which is the transfer of harmful organisms from one surface to another is often the cause. This is especially troublesome for raw, ready-to-eat foods, such as salads or other produce. Because these foods aren't cooked, harmful organisms aren't destroyed before eating and can cause food poisoning.

Let’s save more lives by spreading the word on the importance of keeping food safe. Don't stop at today; it should be a lifetime activity. From farm to plate, Making food safe; builds healthy homes for a better world. It's achievable and it starts with you and I. 

Last Updated: 13-Jul-2017 10:09 AM







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