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World Health Day – Make food safe in 5 simple ways

World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1948. Each year a theme is chosen to highlight a specific priority area and the world is invited to embrace activities that will lead to better health.

The theme for 2015 is safe food. According to the WHO, over 200 diseases are caused by unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses and chemical substances. Equally concerning is that around two million deaths occur every year because of contaminated food or drinking water.

Do you know what you’re eating? Do you know where the ingredients came from? Were they properly – and safely – handled from every stage, from farm to plate? The onus to promote food safety is now not only on producers and policy-makers, but on us as well. Now is the time to educate ourselves on what makes food safe or unsafe to consume in order to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Key #1: Keep it clean

Harmful microorganisms that cause diseases are widely found in soil, water, on animals and on people. So before you grab that healthy apple, make sure you wash your hands well and often during food preparation. Also never forget to wash your hands after using the toilet and sanitise all surfaces and equipment used to prepare food.

Key #2: Never mix it up

The golden rule of food safety is, keep raw food separate. Uncooked food, particularly meat, poultry and seafood, contains dangerous microorganisms that can be transferred to other foods during preparation and storage. Use separate knives and cutting boards for raw meat and vegetables and store food in containers to avoid contact.

Key #3: No half measures

Make sure all food is cooked thoroughly. Proper cooking kills almost all dangerous microorganisms so bring foods like soups and stews to boiling point to make sure that they have reached 70°C. For meat and poultry, make sure that juices are clear and use a thermometer. Studies have shown that cooking food to a temperature of 70°C can help ensure it is safe for consumption. Watch out for minced meats, rolled roasts, large joints of meat and whole poultry.

Key #4: Keep it safe

Microorganisms can multiply very quickly if food is stored at room temperature so by keeping food either below 5°C or above 60°C, the growth of some microorganisms is slowed down or stopped. Never leave cooked food at room temperature for more than two  hours. Rather refrigerate all cooked and perishable food as soon as possible.

Key #5: Get it fresh

Raw materials, including water and ice, can be contaminated with harmful organisms and toxic chemicals. Always use water you know to be purified or treat it to make it safe. Also ensure that you only purchase fresh food and pasteurised milk, never food that has passed its expiry date. Fruit and vegetables should also be washed and peeled to reduce risk.

Food safety is not an area where you should cut corners. This April, keep it safe, fresh and clean.

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