An Overview of Food Safety and Common Best Practices
- Author Kathleen Hill
- Published May 27, 2011
- Word count 558
Instances of contaminated food being purchased and consumed are commonplace as noteworthy news items. One of the most recent food contamination occurrences involved a company in Michigan which distributed alfalfa sprouts tainted with salmonella, a bacteria found in dirty water, birds, reptiles, and livestock. Exhibiting the classic symptoms of food poisoning, salmonella causes extreme nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. The disease poses a fatality risk in infants and the elderly but can be successfully treated if proper care is administered to the infected individual in a timely manner. Salmonella is one of the most common foodborne diseases found today.
Food safety involves utilizing preventative measures in the preparation, handling and storage of food in order to avoid contamination of the food. Since most food has the potential for breeding a bacterial influx, you should always know how to use the proper methods for preserving food if you are going to keep certain perishable food for more than several days with the intention of eating them. Plastic containers with airtight lids should always be used to protect food, since most bacteria are airborne, and put into a refrigerator or freezer. Places where the food is prepared and physically in contact with the preparer should always be disinfected prior to use, just as food utensils should also be sanitized before being used. Bacteria such as salmonella love any type of food residue and will rapidly proliferate on the surface of just one tiny crumb of food.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are highly susceptible to contamination because of a process called microbial degradation of pectin, which is the material utilized in maintaining the firmness, or ripeness, of the fruit or vegetable. Experts estimate that 20% of fruit and vegetable yields are spoiled and rendered inedible due to bacterial and microfungal infection. A good way to prevent these foods from potentially sickening someone from spoilage is to always keep them wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or a plastic container and refrigerated. Also, washing fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them, along with sanitizing your hands and the utensils you use, will help prevent an incident of food poisoning from occurring.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are five fundamental rules of keeping food safe to eat: always use clean water, store food at the proper temperature, be sure to cook foods for the proper amount of time in order to kill any bacteria that may be living within the food; separate the raw from the cooked foods so the cooked foods cannot be contaminated; and prevent the pathogenic contamination of food with germs that could be transmitted from people and animals to the food being prepared and eaten. The WHO also asserts that foodborne diseases will kill about 2.2 million people every year, and 1.9 million of them will be under the age of fifteen.
When grocery shopping, find the expiration or "sell by" date on food packages and make sure the date hasn't surpassed the present date. Be aware, however, that there is no federal law restricting the selling of food due to expired dates, with the exception of baby food and formula. While perishable foods are stamped with a "sell by" date, or a "best if used by" date, it is the consumer who must decide whether they want to use this food, not the seller or manufacturer of the food.
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