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