How many of us believe that eating raw vegetables is healthy? Obviously, most diet enthusiasts will nod in the affirmative.
In fact, subconsciously most of us have developed this habit of eating raw vegetables.
This leaves us vulnerable to diarrheal outbreaks, which, if left unchecked now, could become a concern for an impending epidemic in decades to come.
This is one of the cases where we cross the line of food safety.
According to WHO statistics, food and waterborne diarrheal diseases kill an estimated 2 million people, many of them children, each year.
Here are a few food safety guidelines that we can inculcate in our daily habits.
1. Keep clean
We are all aware that the popular “Farm to Fork” myth is irrelevant in the current circumstances. With that in mind, the WHO has stressed that we must follow clean cooking practices under all circumstances. Following unsanitary cooking habits can transfer some dangerous microorganisms to the hands, cleaning cloths, and kitchen utensils, especially cutting boards, as the slightest contact can transfer them to food and cause foodborne illness. So keep separate cutting boards for vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods. Also, be sure to wash and sanitize all surfaces and equipment before cooking.
2. Separate raw and cooked foods
Keeping raw and cooked foods separate greatly reduces the risk of cross-contamination. It is possible for bacteria from raw food to transfer to hands and then directly onto work surfaces, clothing, and equipment, before finally being transferred to the cooked food.
For example, if raw meat is stored over cooked food, blood and moisture can drip onto the cooked food and contaminate it. To control this, it is essential to use different equipment and utensils, such as knives and cutting boards for raw and cooked foods, and to keep foods in separate containers to avoid contact between raw and cooked foods.
3. Cook thoroughly
Proper cooking kills almost all microorganisms. It is important to consume hot glowing foods because of the low bacteria count. As the temperature drops below 70 degrees, the microorganisms increase significantly in number. In addition, care should be taken not to overcook the food, as it will lose its nutritional value. The preferred method of cooking to preserve nutritional value is steaming.
4. Store food at a safe temperature
What do we mean by safe temperatures? It means maintaining the temperature at a level where the number of bacteria is minimized or completely stopped. This temperature is about 60 degrees Celsius at the top and 5 degrees at the bottom. It is important to keep food at a safe temperature and not keep cooked food for a long time. Also, when consuming stored food, make sure it is warmed (100 degrees Celsius) well before consumption. To prevent food-related illnesses, the refrigeration of cooked foods should be kept to a minimum, along with the practice of keeping cooked foods at room temperature for long periods of time.
5. Use safe and raw materials
Make sure you use clean water to cook your food. Using safe water, selecting fresh and healthy foods, choosing foods that have been processed for safety, such as pasteurized milk, washing fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw, and not using packaged foods past their expiration date are good safety practices.
These small, easy steps, if practiced and cared for, will go a long way toward ensuring a healthy life.