Food safety basics

Foodborne illnesses or infections and irritation of the gastro-intestinal tract (GIT) are caused by foods that contain harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses or chemicals.

Food safety basics
                                                                       Food safety basics

They are classically characterised by vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, blurred vision, headache, weakness, dizziness, fever and chills. Most foodborne illnesses are acute, meaning they happen suddenly and last for a short time, and most people recover on their own without treatment. Food safety is a shared responsibility of everyone. While we hope that at farming and manufacturing levels, these safety measures are carefully monitored, as consumers, we should keep the following points in mind: Avoid contact between raw and cooked food to avoid cross contamination. Do remember that no raw foods that reach the consumer are in a sterile state; they usually contain bacteria or other microbes, most of which are harmless. They may also occasionally contain pathogenic microbes, which could be a potential threat to food safety.

Separate raw meat or poultry from other foods while shopping for daily groceries to prevent the juices from dripping onto other foods, like vegetables and fruits that you may have also purchased.

Wash your hands before and after food handling, to prevent contamination. Cool cooked foods as quickly as possible and then refrigerate, preferably to below 5 degrees Celsius (if not consuming immediately). This slows down or stops microbial growth. Food safety experts stress on the `two-hour rule’ – perishable food items must not be kept at room temperatures for longer than two hours, as they multiply best in this danger zone (10 60 degrees Celsius).

Reheat food thoroughly and evenly through the dish, to kill any tiny microbes, which may have developed during storage.

Keep kitchen surfaces, cutting boards, storing utensils and your fridge under high cleanliness surveillance.

Don’t buy cans that are bulging or dented. Also, don’t buy jars that are cracked or have loose, bulging lids. Don’t buy food products that have damaged safety seals.

Don’t buy frozen food if the packing is damaged. Also, if the packaging is in a transparent pack, please see that there are no signs of ice crystals – this could mean that the food has been stored for a long time or is thawed or refrozen.

Use filtered drinking water or boil it to make it safe before drinking.

Lastly, don’t not use food beyond its expiry date.

(Pooja Makhija, Consulting Nutritionist & Clinical Dietician)


What is the Principal Display Panel of a Food Product ?

What is the Principal Display Panel ?

According to the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011,“Principal Display Panel means that part of the container/package which is intended or likely to be displayed or presented or shown or examined by the customer under normal and customary conditions of display, sale or purchase of the commodity contained therein.”

In simple words it means that part of the container or package that the customers will first read if it is on display in a shop or which they will pick up to read and examine if they want to purchase that commodity. The principal display is what the salesperson will show to the customer if the customer has asked to buy that particular packaged product.

According to regulations the Principal Display Panel normally gives the identity of the food like, Jam, Pickle in a specific way, where the height of the letters are to be of specific height. It also mentions the net quantity or amount of the product in the specific container of package the numerals for which have to be of specific height as mentioned in regulations.

Besides the Principal Display Panel there is an alternate display panel which has the identical information as the Principal Display Panel. Information on the Principal Display Panel has to be clear, easily readable and cannot be obscured by design, vignettes, or crowding. For the packages of the same size the quantity of the contents need to be in uniform size as directed by regulations.

The space occupied by the Principal Display Panel according to FSS Regulations will be

  • In case the container is rectangular then the space occupied by the Principal Display Panel must be in 40% of the available space when height is multiplied by width of the package in the area where the package is the broadest.
  • In case the container is cylindrical or nearly cylindrical, round or nearly round, oval or nearly oval container then the Principal Display Panel must be on 20% of the available space when the height of the container is multiplied by the average circumference.
  • In case the container/ package is of any other shape then 20% of the total surface area will contain the Principal Display Panel but only if there is no label affixed securely to the container. If a label has been affixed then the surface area of the label that works as the PDP must not be less than 10% of the total surface area of the container.  Principal Display Panel can be must be tape or card affixed to the package or container if it has the capacity of only 5 cubic centimeters and must bear all the required information according to regulations.

Bird Flu Scare Brings Out The Poor Quality Of Poultry

Bird Flu Scare Brings out Poor Quality of Poultry

According to World Health Organization (WHO) most bird flu viruses do not infect people except the A (H5N1) and A (H7N9) viruses.  Though some new virus have been discovered yet the most common virus that infects human being either from dead or alive poultry is the A (H5N1) and A (H7N9) so controlling the disease in birds is important. However, people need to understand that the disease mostly spreads from poultry to poultry. The virus can infect only those people who are in direct contact with the infected birds. The disease rarely spreads from one person to another. Most cases of bird flu in humans are a result of direct contact with the infected birds or surfaces that are contaminated with secretions or excretion from infected birds.

Bird flu has been reported from all over the world particularly from China (Hong Kong), Japan, Britain, USA, Egypt, Germany, Italy and Libya. Japan and Hong Kong have culled lakhs of birds. China and India have both banned the import of poultry from the USA. In India Kerala culled 3lakh ducks followed by Chandigarh where the ducks in the Sukhna Lake were found to be infected with the A (H5N1) virus strain.  While Tamil Nadu stopped the inflow of poultry from Kerala Uttar Pradesh stopped inflow of poultry from other states.

Since Chandigarh is close to Simla, the death of 300 chickens the fear of the spread of bird flu gripped them even though later the birds tested negative for bird flu. However, the bird deaths brought to light how Health, Food Safety Standard (FSS) Regulatory Authority, municipal bodies and Animal Husbandry Department are playing with consumers’ health.

Since Himachal has put chicken and meat on the essential commodities list, it falls on the Food Safety Authority to ensure quality supply of these items but consumers say that their health is being endangered as there is no mandatory testing and checking as required under the Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act, 2006.  Private suppliers have a free hand as they are not checked by authorities and so they supply cheap and poor quality chicken to make quick money. They are also breaking all health and safety norms as they

  • Get certificates from unauthorized veterinarian doctors
  • Transport meat in pick-up vans, packed in unhealthy gunny bags instead of chilled vans
  • Do not cull birds imported from Haryana and Punjab even for three bacterial infections, and use chemical sprays to de-feather the birds

Since chicken supplied from Municipal slaughterhouses is 15% to 20% higher, the shopkeepers also do not care and mix both good and bad quality chicken for selling to consumers. In Himachal the Directorate of Health Safety and Regulation is responsible for implementing the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, and Rules 1955 and Food Safety Standard Act, 2006.

Food Safety officials say that it is the responsibility of the district administration to check all slaughter houses including the MC ones. This case may be related to Simla only but the story can be true for most of India as the condition of slaughterhouses and irregularities is a common factor in many other states in India.

According to health experts, lack of information and knowledge about the virus is adding to the scare. Though duck consumption dropped in Kerala there is no need to panic as Kerala has taken all steps to curb the spread of virus. The samples from Himachal were not found to be infected.

Poultry in Chandigarh is also unaffected and is safe for consumption. The government has taken all possible precautionary measures to check any spread of virus in birds and all is under control say officials.

Health organizations like the WHO, FDA and AIIMS in India support the evidence that bird flu cannot be spread by cooking food. However, those food business operators, who serve cooked poultry in their restaurants and catering businesses, must ensure that meat is not left partially cooked or served raw. Experts say, poultry should be cooked for at least half an hour at 70°C so it is safe for consumption.

Food Safety & Standards Regulations mentions; Paultry should be cooked thoroughly (core temperature 75° C for at least 15 seconds or an effective time/temperature control e.g. 65°C for 10 minutes, 70°C for 2 minutes).

Here are some tips given by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that FBOs can follow in order to ensure they are serving the consumer disease free meat and eggs. Ensure that your employees are following these precautions.

  • Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water after handling raw poultry and eggs
  • Clean cutting boards and other utensils thoroughly with soap and hot water so that poultry does not contaminate other foods
  • Use cooking thermometer to make sure poultry is being cooked at 75°C s consumers are likely to prefer that poultry is cooked at a higher temperature. Eggs should be cooked till the whites and yolks are both firm

Plea to protect salt industry

The Tamil Nadu Foodgrains Merchants Association has appealed to the Food Safety Commissioner, Kumar Jayant, to protect the Tuticorin salt industry by instructing Food Safety and Standards Act officials not to initiate action against salt manufacturers till the standards are revised as per Tamil Nadu’s climatic and environmental conditions.
In a memorandum submitted to the Commissioner, the president of the association, S. P. Jeyapragasam, pointed out that salt producers followed different procedures in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. In Gujarat, salt was produced directly from seawater whereas producers used seawater pumped from borewells in Tamil Nadu. Sodium chloride content in Gujarat salt was 96 per cent and it was 92 per cent in Tuticorin salt. As the Act specified 96 per cent as sodium chloride content in salt, Food Safety and Standards Act officials initiated action against Tuticorin producers for ‘substandard’ salt. Mr. Jeyapragasam said that around 50,000 families were dependent on the Tuticorin salt industry, which was spread over an area of 25,000 acres.
The association also drew the attention of Mr. Jayant to the difficulties faced in processing coriander. Traditionally, traders fumigated coriander using sulphur to remove insects. As a result of this, sulphur content would be high in coriander immediately after fumigation. But coriander powder was used for cooking only after it was pulverised. As officials did not allow the use of sulphur, the coriander trade in Tamil Nadu and Kerala was affected with the entry of the commodity from Maharashtra and Karnataka. It appealed to the Commissioner to allow fumigation of coriander using sulphur till such time an alternative was found for fumigation.

FDA busts milk adulteration racket in Mira Rd, 2 held

The Thane unit of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) busted a gang involved in milk adulteration at two places in Mira Road early on Friday morning.
While two people identified as Ramana Papakpoli Shetty and Majgiri Kobal were caught red handed, the FDA team seized 131 litres of adulterated milk.
Acting on a tip-off, a FDA team led by Food Safety Officers Manek Jadhav and Gopal Mahore carried out simultaneous raids at two residential apartments in Nutan Complex and Shanti Nagar area of Mira Road at about 6 a.m. on Friday.
According to FDA officials the accused would buy branded milk packets from distributors. They would then remove about 100 to 200 ml milk from each packet and then refill it with tap water before sealing it using hot wax.
“The drive to flush out the unscrupulous elements from the region will continue, however citizens too should check the seal of milk packets before consuming,” appealed FDA officials.
The duo who are presently in the custody of the Mira Road police have been booked under the regulations of the Food Safety and Standards Act,(FSSA) 2006, and relevant sections of the IPC.
The samples of the adulterated milk has been sent for lab testing.