Keeping good food hygiene means preparing and storing food safely, so that it will not cause disease. We do not always realise its importance, but there are simple things we can do to make sure our food is safe.
WHY IS FOOD HYGIENE IMPORTANT?
More than 200 different diseases can be caught from food. This includes salmonella, E-coli and tapeworms, which have symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. These diseases cause 137,000 deaths per year in Africa, mostly of children under 5.
Food hygiene is important everywhere, for example: at home, in schools, in hotels, in hospitals, and at food markets.
HOW DO WE CATCH DISEASES FROM FOOD?
Food can contain pathogens, which are tiny organisms that make us ill. Some pathogens will change the appearance of food. For example, they might make the food go mouldy. However, some pathogens will not change the appearance of food, so it is important to make sure all of our food is safe.
TIPS FOR FOOD HYGIENE
The WHO (World Health Organisation) gives 5 tips for preparing food safely:
- Keep clean. Lots of pathogens are carried on our hands, on surfaces and utensils. It is important to clean hands and equipment before cooking. Washing with water and soap is the best way to kill pathogens. If you do not have access to soap, coal ash can be used instead.
- Separate raw and cooked food. Raw food, especially meat and fish, can contain pathogens. These can be passed on to other foods. It is important to prevent raw and cooked food from touching each other, including while shopping.
- Cook thoroughly. Cooking kills almost all pathogens. Foods like meat and fish should be heated to 70 degrees celcius to make them safe. You can also check that food is safe in other ways. Poultry (such as chicken and turkey) should no longer be pink, and the juices should be clear. Eggs and seafood should be piping hot all the way through. Soups and stews should be boiled for at least 1 minute.
- Keep food at safe temperatures. At room temperature, pathogens can multiply. Below 5 degrees celsius most pathogens do not grow properly. To keep food cold, you could use a refrigerator, dig a hole, or use cold water. Even if you store food this way, it is important not to keep it for too long. Leftovers should not be kept for more than 3 days.
- Use safe water and raw materials. ‘Safe’ water is free from pathogens. Untreated water from rivers is not safe. Rainwater can be safe if tanks are clean and protected. Water can also be made safe by boiling, by adding chlorine, or by filtering. However, this would not remove harmful chemicals. Make sure the food you use is fresh and not rotting or mouldy.
If we make sure that we pay attention to food hygiene, we can provide safe and healthy food for our families and ourselves. Remember that we cannot always see if food or water is unsafe, so it is important to be sure before using it.