World Food Safety Day 2020: Seven hygienic food practices you should follow for a healthy life
If hygiene and safety standards aren’t met, it’s you, the consumer, who will suffer directly due to ill health and diseases
Food is a basic necessity of life, and everyone has a right to safe, healthy and nutritious food. When this basic right is not met with, it not only increases the risk of diseases but also costs lives.
World Food Safety Day is observed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) — two bodies of the United Nations — every year on 7 June to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, diagnose and manage foodborne disease risks. The aim of this global action is to increase food security, optimise human health, agriculture and sustainable development, among others.
A consumer’s role
It’s important to remember that food safety is a shared responsibility. Governments, food producers and consumers all have a role to play in getting food from the farms to the table safely and to ensure that it won’t cause any harm to health. Governments agencies like the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) create hygiene and safety standards for all producers to abide by, and food producers play a huge role in maintaining these standards and providing consumers with all the produce they need.
So, what role do you, the consumer, have to play in maintaining food safety standards? A very important one because it is your consumption that maintains the demand and supply of produce, and your feedback that determines which food safety laws work and which don’t. In case hygiene and safety standards aren’t met, it’s you, the consumer, who will suffer directly due to ill health and diseases.
Best consumer practices
It’s of the utmost importance that consumers get educated about what they are buying and putting in their body. The following practices should be strictly adhered to by all consumers:
1. Read the label
No, this is not important just for the expiration date manufacturers put on ready-made foods and food products. This is also about the nutritional chart on the labels which can give you a fairly accurate idea of what’s in the product in terms of nutritional ingredients, preservatives and chemicals. Preservatives and trans fats in food pose a serious health risk, so ensure that you avoid products which are packed with them.
2. Know your produce
When you’re buying fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s important to know what’s in season and what’s not so you can get the best nature has to offer at any given time. Being able to identify and pick fresh, clean and the right fruits and vegetables can also keep health risks at bay. Similarly, knowing what the best produce smells and looks like can help you buy eggs, fish, meats and dairy products too.
3. Know your seller/market
You should know which markets and sellers around your neighbourhood have the best produce and also maintain food safety standards. Knowing how grocery shop owners actually store their products also helps. For example, if you see rats or droppings around store shelves, it indicates an unhygienic environment, and you should report this for your sake and your community’s too.
4. Clean your food
It’s not just during the COVID-19 pandemic that you must clean your produce as soon as you come home and before use. Washing fresh veggies and fruits in warm water, cleaning all food packets and jars, etc, can help you keep all types of bacterial, viral and fungal infections away.
5. Store right
Don’t just come home and pack stuff into the refrigerator, because every food product has specific storage requirements. For example, storing eggs on the fridge door reduces their shelf life. It’s also important to separate fresh produce from cooked ones and raw meats to avoid cross-contamination.
6. Cook properly
Cooking food all the way through kills germs — this is common knowledge, and you should definitely practice it. The addition of healthy oils, spices and herbs can also increase the nutritional value of food and help keep diseases away.
7. Eat raw, but eat right
In a world where salads, sushi and cold cuts are easily available, eating raw food has immense popularity and health risks in equal amounts. So, check manufacture dates of cold cuts and salad dressings, clean veggies and fruits thoroughly before making a salad, and talk to the chef about the provenance, quality and freshness of the produce before eating sushi or medium-cooked meats at restaurants.
For more information, read our article on How to wash fruits and vegetables during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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