“In light of the listeria outbreak” Food safety 101
“In light of the listeria outbreak” Food safety 101
1. What does it mean to be ‘food safe’?
Being food safe involves handling, preparing and storing food in a way to best reduce the risk of becoming sick from foodborne illnesses.
2. What causes foodborne illnesses?
Microorganisms are widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water and vegetation. Food can be contaminated with microorganisms from the environment, processing facilities or during home food preparation and storage.
Foodborne illnesses are usually caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food or water.
The most common foodborne microorganisms are Salmonella, Campylobacter and Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli. Listeria and Vibrio Cholera also cause illness through the consumption of contaminated food or water sources.
3. What are some of the symptoms of these illnesses?
Symptoms of Salmonella, Campylobacter and Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli infection include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Similar symptoms are caused by Listeria and Cholera infection; however Cholera can cause profuse watery diarrhoea, which may lead to severe dehydration. If left untreated, this can be life threatening. As many of these symptoms are common to many diseases, it is recommended that you visit your health care professional to determine the cause of your symptoms to ensure that you receive the correct treatment.
diarrhoea. Similar symptoms are caused by Listeria and Cholera infection; however Cholera can cause profuse watery diarrhoea, which may lead to severe dehydration. If left untreated, this can be life threatening. As many of these symptoms are common to many diseases, it is recommended that you visit your health care professional to determine the cause of your symptoms to ensure that you receive the correct treatment.
4. WHO IS AT RISK OF FOOD POISONING
Persons who have the greatest risk of experiencing food poisoning such as Listeriosis are new-borns, the elderly, pregnant women, persons with compromised immune systems such as individuals with HIV, tuberculosis, diabetes, cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease.
5. SYMPTOMS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Flu-like illness with diarrhoea including fever; abdominal pains, general body pains, nausea, vomiting and weakness; infection of the bloodstream which is called septicaemia; and meningoencephalitis (infection of the brain).
6. HOW CAN I PREVENT GETTING ILL FROM FOODBORNE ILLNESSES?
Disease caused by these microorganisms are largely preventable through good food safety and hygiene practices. As contamination can occur at any stage during the journey from purchasing to consuming your food, here are some tips to ensure that your food is kept safe along the way:
How to be food safe
Shopping for food Super shopper is a safe shopper
Shop at places that keep foods under the correct storage conditions e.g. at the right temperature, in a clean environment.
When shopping, it is recommended to start with non-perishable goods first and then buy perishables before making payment at the tills.
Use cooler bags to transport frozen & refrigerated products such as milk, cheese, meat to ensure that they remain at the correct temperature
Store food appropriately immediately on arrival at home
Two hour rule:
2 Hours is the maximum time advisable for keeping foods that require refrigeration at room temperature.
Food storage (upon arrival at home)
Store food immediately in the refrigerator or freezer (not more than 2 hours at room temperature)
Store other food products in a cool, dry place
Check appliance temperature to ensure that it is correct:
- Refrigerator: Below 4 degrees Celsius
- Freezer: -18 degrees Celsius
Check storage instructions on the labels and store accordingly
Use ready to eat products as soon as possible.
The longer they stay in the fridge, the more opportunity for bacteria to grow
Wash hands with soap and a little water before and after handling foods
Wash hands with soap and a little water in between handling different food types e.g. raw and cooked ingredients and different raw ingredients
Use safe water for washing hands and food products
Use different cutting boards or utensils for different foods and ensure that these are washed thoroughly
Separate raw and cooked food and do not mix them together
Keep cooked food in tightly sealed containers in refrigerator
Cook food thoroughly (70 degrees Celsius or more)
If you are eating raw fruit and vegetables, wash them thoroughly with a little clean water
Make sure your milk is pasteurised, if not boil it
If you are concerned about the safety of your water, boil and cool it before drinking or cooking with it
Smellies and slimes: If you are in doubt about whether a food or water is safe, dispose of it responsibly e.g. can be used to make compost
No water, what now?
Always use water from a safe source
If in doubt, boil water before use and store in clean containers
Use antibacterial hand sanitisers to reduce water use
Use bottled water if available
Reduce the amount of water you use by choosing your dishes carefully e.g. replace soups with dishes that require less water for preparation, cook cleaned vegetables into dishes instead of cooking them in water separately.
Plan your food preparation so that you use the smallest amount of water possible e.g. wash all dishes at once.
Consume ready to eat food as soon as possible
Adapted from the World Health Organisation (WHO) & United States Food & Drug Admin (FDA)
Issued on behalf of the consumer goods council of south africa by: