World Health Day 2015: Food Safety
We listen to the evening news and hear about the raw chicken meat that was recalled due to E. coli contamination, or the packaged salad greens which were contaminated by bacteria and taken off the shelves at the supermarket. The food contamination is usually discovered after several people have already been sick and ended up in the hospital. The CDC estimates that one and six Americans get food poisoning every year in more than 100,000 are hospitalized. I have also been struck by food poisoning several times in my life, either while I was traveling or eating leftovers at home. Most of us, if not all of us are affected by contaminated food or drinks at some point in our lives.
Every year on April 7th, we celebrate World Health Day, Sponsored by World Health Organization. This year, the topic is food safety awareness. Approximately 2 million people die every year globally due to unsafe foods. Children are the ones affected the most by food containing bad bacteria, parasites, or toxic chemicals. And if by luck they don’t die, there are more than 200 diseases that could surface based upon these unsafe foods. But let’s talk about some safe food practices to help us avoid intoxication.
When packaged food is sitting on the shelf at the supermarket for some time, there is a chance that bacteria can overgrow, especially the disease-causing ones. The FDA has approved spraying the meat with viruses (phage viruses) which destroy bacteria, and thus minimizing it’s overgrowth. Unfortunately, there’s no requirement to label this technique if is being used. It is important to know where your food is coming from. Some companies are more open about their food handling techniques than others. Another reason why you should find out where your food comes from is due to toxic chemicals contamination. For example, brown rice can be contaminated with arsenic. Unfortunately, many toxins, such as arsenic, are not destroyed by cooking.
But let’s go back to what you can do at home to prevent food poisoning or diseases. Since the digestive process starts in the mouth, oral diseases can also manifest from contaminated food. Once the processed food makes it to your refrigerator, here are a few things you can do to prevent food illnesses:
1. Hand washing before preparing any food and after handling the raw meat
2. Prevent cross contamination by using the same cutting board for raw meat and vegetables. One suggestion is to color coordinate your cutting boards.
3. Proper storage of raw meats in enclosed, separate containers, in the freezer or refrigerator
4. Do not leave cooked/raw food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours
5. Leftovers should be put in shallow containers for quick cooling and refrigeration as soon as possible
6. When you’re reheating food, make sure it is hot or even steamy (over a temperature of 329°F) to kill bacteria
7. Keep your refrigerator under 40°F, because this prevents virtually all bacteria from growing.
In great health,