World Health Day 2015- Food Safety

By Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi

Safe foods are essential for good health. This goes beyond having a delicious meal on the table to the intrigues behind the production, transportation, preparation and consumption of same food. The safety of foods is constantly facing new threats daily. Changes in food production, distribution and consumption, changes to the environment, globalization, antimicrobial resistance, emergence of new bacteria and toxins all increase the risk of food contamination. These have resulted in unsafe foods which are linked to more than 200 diseases and the death of an estimated 2 million people annually.  Food, a substance consumed to provide nutritional support, can transmit diseases from person to person and serves as growth medium for bacteria that can cause food poisoning if not properly handled.
The World Health Organization (WHO) postulated five keys to safe foods. These keys help to ensure that the whole food process is health-friendly. They are:

  • ·         Wash hands and every cooking equipment, clean surfaces and utensils to be used. Raw foods should be well washed. This will prevent contamination of foods with pathogens.

  • ·         Separate raw and cooked foods. This is to prevent contaminating the cooked foods with probable pathogens present in raw foods.

  • ·         Cook foods for the appropriate length of time and temperature. This kills off pathogens present in the foods. Eat foods while hot enough for consumption so it is not contaminated.

  • ·         Store foods at the proper temperature. This hinders some pathogens from proliferating.

  • ·         Make use of safe raw materials and water. Contaminated water used in food preparation can contaminate the foods.

Unsafe foods can cause foodborne diseases with symptoms which include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and nausea. This can result in severe dehydration that may lead to death. Some harmful bacteria that have gained resistance to antibiotics due to overuse and misuse of antibiotics in agriculture may also be introduced to the body through unsafe foods.
Food supply in today’s world is complex involving the activities of different professionals thus food safety is multisectoral and multidisciplinary. From the farmer who plants and harvests the crop, the driver who transports the harvested crop to the factory, the food scientist who processes, regulates and packages the processed food, the store keeper who stores and sells the processed food, the cook who cooks it after it goes off the shelf to the consumer who eats the food- everyone is involved in the safety of the food. Any wrong action taken by any of these could result in the consumption of an unsafe food.
Information is vital to enable people make wise choices in making and keeping food safe.


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