According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), food safety refers to the absence or acceptable levels of hazardous microbiological, chemical, or physical components present in food that might cause harm to consumers. An article by the United Nations states, “Food safety has a critical role in assuring that food stays safe at every stage of the food chain – from production to harvest, processing, storage, distribution, all the way to preparation and consumption.”
The way in which food is processed, stored, distributed, and consumed directly affects food safety, and safe practices can help regulate food-borne illnesses which are presently estimated at over 600 million cases annually. “Complying with global food standards, establishing effective regulatory food control systems including emergency preparedness and response, providing access to clean water, applying good agriculture practices, strengthening the use of food safety management systems are some ways in which governments, international organizations, scientists, the private sector and civil society work to ensure food safety.”
WHO in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has organised the second ‘World Food Safety Day’ on June 7 particularly to ensure safe and healthy food practices. Their theme, ‘Food Safety, Everyone’s Business’ seeks to bring together the government, food producers and consumers, alike to share the responsibility of keeping food safe and of raising awareness about the many ways in which lax practices can cause serious health issues.
Food safety has become even more vital during the coronavirus pandemic. Though there is no evidence to support that the virus can live or grow on food. Safe hygiene practices are still recommended. Complying with the Global Food Standard, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have prepared a guideline with which people can educate themselves and establish safe food practices. Here are some dos and don’ts that you can practice at home:
· While shopping, keep produce separate from meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. Store them in plastic bags.
· Keep produce and other ready to eat foods in a separate area of the refrigerator, away from the meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.
· Refrigerate food within 2 hours of grocery shopping or 1 hour if kept in air temperatures above 32 degrees.
· Defrost food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Cook immediately.
· Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before preparing food.
· Rinse whole fruits and vegetables under running water and dry with clean cloth.
· Clean cooking surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water after every use.
· Keep meat, poultry, and seafood warm (60 degrees or above) between cooking and serving.
· Choose meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs with broken or leaking packaging.
· Remove eggs from the carton or keep them in the refrigerator door.
· Place raw meats, poultry, or seafood on upper shelves of the refrigerator where they can drip onto other foods.
· Thaw meat, poultry, or seafood on the counter or wash them.
· Use soap or detergent on foods.
· Allow raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or flour to touch any food that will be consumed raw.
· Reuse plates or cutting boards that have touched uncooked meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or flour unless you wash them with hot, soapy water first.
· Allow food to cool before refrigerating.
· Let food sit out for more than 2 hours or 1 hour in air temperatures above 32 degrees.
The UN’s ‘Zero Hunger Initiative’, talks about how food safety is key to achieving several ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ as safe food practices can lead to economic prosperity, boosts in agriculture, market access, tourism, and sustainable development. Some of the goals are as follows:
Goal 2 — There is no food security without food safety. Ending hunger is about all people having access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food all year round.
Goal 3 — Food safety has a direct impact on people’s health and nutritional intake. Foodborne diseases are preventable.
Goal 12 — When countries strengthen their regulatory, scientific, and technological capacities to ensure that food is safe and of the expected quality throughout the food chain, they move towards more sustainable patterns of food production and consumption.
This year’s World Food Safety Day is being celebrated virtually and you can participate by sharing food safety tips on social media with the hashtag #WorldFoodSafetyDay2020. You can send photos to [email protected] or tag @WHO @FAO on social medias and @FAOWHOCodex, using the hashtag #WorldFoodSafetyDay.