Simple food hygiene practices make the difference between sickness and good health, cautions Dr Pete Vincent of Netcare Travel Clinics and Tokai Medicross.
In line with principles advocated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and in support of Health Awareness Month, Dr Vincent highlights five key principles of food handling which are imperative for keeping your family safe from food-borne diseases.
“The first essential principle is hand hygiene,” Dr Vincent says. “Wash your hands before preparing or eating food, after you've used the bathroom and after you’ve sneezed, coughed or blown your nose. This is extremely important when it comes to maintaining your good health.”
“Apart from washing your hands, be sure to wash fruit and vegetables carefully prior to eating and even wash vegetables, meat and fish before cooking,” he adds.
The second principle is to keep raw and cooked food separate, particularly when it comes to meat and fish, in order to avoid contamination. For example, cooked meat should never be placed on the same dish that held it when it was raw.
The third key recommendation is to cook food thoroughly, particularly meat such as pork, in order to destroy potentially harmful bacteria.
The fourth key principle is to keep food at safe temperatures. “Freshly cooked, hot food is safe but food that is not used right away should be refrigerated as soon as possible, preferably within an hour, to prevent spoilage. After two hours, food can become unsafe to eat, particularly on a hot summer’s day or in a warm, humid climate. If you allow food you have cooked to stay at room temperature all day, this will allow germs to breed,” Dr Vincent notes.
When preparing leftover food, it is important that the food is thoroughly re-heated all the way through. Dr Vincent says that food should be refrigerated and reheated once only.
Repeated refrigeration and reheating can lead to increased bacterial growth, making the food unsafe for human consumption. He furthermore suggests ridding your home of wooden chopping boards and cooking utensils as these are very difficult to clean and sterilize properly. The fifth key principle to ensure food safety is to use safe water when preparing food.
Good food and water hygiene while travelling
“Travel introduces a number of additional food safety hazards, however there are a few useful precautions one can take to avoid contracting a food-borne illness. These include choosing food that is freshly prepared, thoroughly cooked, and served steaming hot. Choose freshly prepared local dishes in a busy restaurant with a high turnover, as these are more likely to be safe,” notes Dr Vincent.
“When travelling, it is important to bear in mind that tap water is not necessarily safe, unless it has been chemically treated or brought to a rolling boil for at least a minute to destroy harmful bacteria.”
Bottled water is generally safe; however it is advisable to check the seal on the bottle to ensure the contents have not been replaced with ordinary tap water. Sparkling water is the best option when travelling. Even ice in soft drinks should be avoided, as it might have been made from contaminated water. It is even advisable to use bottled water for brushing your teeth.
“Be careful when eating raw or undercooked foods, including vegetables, salads, meat and seafood. Eat only fruit that can be peeled or cut open such as bananas, oranges, pineapples and pawpaws, among others. Avoid milk, ice cream, yoghurt drinks and cheese, unless made with pasteurised or boiled milk.”
“Avoid prepared salads, particularly those that are mayonnaise-based, as these could be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, which can cause food poisoning,” Dr Vincent concludes.
Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Travel Clinics
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Sarah Wilson, Meggan Saville
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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