How many of us believe that eating raw vegetables is healthy? Clearly most diet aficionados will nod their head in affirmation.
As a matter of fact, unknowingly, most of us have developed this habit of eating raw vegetables.
This makes us vulnerable to outbreaks of diarrhea, which if not checked now might become a concern for an impending epidemic in the coming decades.
This is one of the cases where we jump the line of food safety.
According to WHO statistics, food-borne and water-borne diarrheal diseases kill an estimated 2 million people, including many children annually.
Here are a few food safety guidelines that we can inculcate in our daily habits.
1. Keep clean
We all are aware that the popular myth ‘From farm to plate’ doesn’t stand relevant in today’s circumstances. Keeping that in mind, WHO has stressed on the fact that we must, in all circumstances, follow clean cooking habits. Following unhygienic cooking habits can transfer some dangerous microorganisms to the hands, wiping cloths and utensils, especially chopping boards, as the slightest contact can transfer them to food and cause food-borne diseases. So keep separate chopping boards for vegetarian and non-vegetarian food items. Also, make sure you wash and sanitize all surfaces and equipment before cooking.
2. Separate raw and cooked foods
Keeping raw and cooked food separate cuts down the risk of cross contamination considerably. It is possible that bacteria may pass from raw food onto the hands and then directly to the work surfaces, clothes, equipment, before ultimately getting transferred to the cooked food.
For example, if raw meat is stored above cooked food, blood and fluid may drip onto the cooked food and contaminate it. To keep this in check, it is essential to use different equipment and utensils such as knives and chopping boards for raw and cooked food and store food in separate containers to avoid contact between raw and cooked food.
3. Cook thoroughly
Proper cooking kills almost all micro organisms. It is important to consume hot piping food because of its low microbial count. As the temperature falls below 70 degrees, the microorganisms increase in number considerably. Additionally, one should ensure that the food is not overcooked as it then loses its nutritional value. The preferred way of cooking to retain nutritional value has to be steaming.
4. Keep food at safe temperatures
What do we mean by safe temperatures? It means maintaining the temperature at a level where microbial count is reduced to the minimum or completely stopped. This temperature is about 60 degrees Celsius on the higher side and 5 degrees on the lower side. It is important to keep food at safe temperatures and not store cooked food for long. Also, when you are consuming stored food, ensure it is heated up well before consumption (100 degree Celsius). To avoid food related diseases, refrigeration of cooked food should be minimized along with the habit of keeping cooked food at room temperature for a long time.
5. Use safe and raw materials
Make sure you use clean water to cook your food. Using safe water, selecting fresh and wholesome food, choosing foods processed for safety like pasteurized milk, washing fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw and not using packaged food beyond their expiry date are good safe practices.
These small, easy steps if practiced and taken care of will go a long way in ensuring a healthy life.