Prioritise food safety

Considering the prevailing grim conditions globally due to corona virus, having safe and clean food is immensely important to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in specific and other food borne diseases in general. In order to achieve the vital aspect of staying safe and healthy, food safety, thus, should be our priority and to ensure it, some precautionary measures needs to be followed.

Food Safety Practices:

  • Always read labels properly. Packed foods have expiry date, list of ingredients and handling instructions printed on the labels. You can use them as per your requirement.
  • Chilled and frozen foods need to be stored in the fridge or freezer as soon as you can. This will keep the food safe and wholesome.
  • Whenever carrying food outside avoid putting it in warm places, e.g. inside the car or under the sun for longer time.
  • Many foods should be stored in the fridge once they have been opened. Read the label of the packed food carefully and look for advice for storage instructions.
  • Store raw foods away from other foods, especially cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods (such as salads, fruits, cooked meats, cheeses and bread). Cover all foods in the refrigerator and freezer to protect them from cross contamination.
  • Keep prepared cold food and dairy products in the fridge between 0-5°.
  • Refrigerate leftovers immediately in small portions to allow them to cool quickly.
  • Never eat food that looks, tastes or smells bad, even if the product is within the expiry date. Always throw away any fruit or vegetable that has started to rot and never eat food from leaking packages.
  • Use different chopping boards, trays, utensils and plates when preparing or cooking food. If you have only one chopping board wash it well in hot soapy water before reuse.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water after using the toilet, working and before eating or preparing food. People with symptoms of disease should not prepare food for others. Make sure not to touch your eyes, nose and face.

Food Preparation Process:

Clean:

  • Wash hand with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling the food.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on the next food.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables under running tap water including those with skins.

Cook:

  • Food is cooked safely when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful microorganisms that causes illness.
  • Cook properly and don’t let any portions of the food half cooked as it may be harmful.

Separate:

  • Keep raw non-veg food apart from other food items in your grocery basket.
  • Use one cutting board for non-veg and another one for veg if possible.
  • Store non-veg in the lowest shelf of the refrigerator and in a container or on a plate and always covered to avoid cross contamination.

Chill:

  • Chill leftovers and takeout foods within 2 hours
  • Keep frozen food below -18°C and chilled food between 0-5°C.
  • Thaw meat & poultry in the fridge, not on the counter and do not overstuffed.

Best Ways to Buy Your Food:

Fruits & Vegetables:

Check the characteristic signs of freshness such as bright, tender and fresh-appearing and good color and be relatively free from bruises and decay. Buy leafy vegetables that are fresh, young, tender, and free from defects and have green color.

Meat & Poultry:

Slime formation, bad odor and rancid flavor, color change (such as grey, brown or green) and sticky texture or very dry meat surface are indicators of quality deterioration. Do not buy meat if you notice any of these indicators. Raw meat & poultry sometimes drip. The juices that drip may have germs. Keep these juices away from other foods.

Fish:

Fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour or ammonia like. Whole fish should have firm, shiny flesh and bright red gills free from slime and eyes should be clear and bulged.

Packed food:

Buy packs that look physically fit. Avoid foods in torn packages and check that safety seals are intact. Also, avoid canned foods that are dented, bulged or rusty and those which have loose lid. Always read labels properly. Reading the list of ingredients and instructions may help you avoid allergens

Chilled & Frozen Food:

Chilled food should be kept chilled in refrigerated cabinets or on ice. Frozen food should be solidly frozen without a lot of frost in the package.

Dr. Owais Yousuf is Assistant Professor, Integral University, Lucknow, U.P