During the summer we eat more raw food, while the high temperatures help bacteria to multiply. That’s why we need to tighten preventive measures, as the risk of suffering foodborne disease increases in this time of year.
Citizens are advised to adopt guidelines based in the World Health Organization Golden Rules for Safe Food Preparation, aiming at prevention of diseases caused by inappropriate food handling or conservation.
These recommendations are intended for general population and also for the hospitality industry establishments, where food is handled daily.
1. Choose hygienically processed or treated food: Meat, fish and bakery and confectionery products must be refrigerated or frozen. Milk must be subjected to heat treatment. Restaurants are required to use processed eggs when preparing mayonnaises, sauces and soups. If you prepare these foods at home, you must eat them immediately. Don’t reuse leftovers and refrigerate promptly everything you cook. If you wash eggs, because there is dirt on their shells, do it immediately before using them.
2. Cook food thoroughly: Food may be contaminated with micro-organisms, but if it’s properly cooked these pathogens can be destroyed by intense heat. Food must be subjected to a minimum core temperature of 70º C.
3. Eat immediately after cooking: To prevent microorganisms from multiplying, it’s better to eat your food as soon as it comes off the heat, and never leave it at room temperature.
4. Cooked food is hygienized food: Food that can’t be eaten just after being cooked and leftovers must be stored under hot (above 60º C) or cold (under 7º C) conditions. If you are going to eat raw or undercooked fish at home, keep it frozen for a few days before doing so.
5. Reheat cooked food thoroughly: Some foods (soups, stews) can be prepared and kept hot until they are eaten. Those that can’t be subjected to heat (salads, cold soups) must be promptly refrigerated. If there are leftovers, they must be reheated thoroughly, to a temperature of 70º C at least, before their consumption.
6. Separate raw and cooked food: Cooked food can become contaminated through contact with raw products or even with objects previously used to handle it (knives, cutting boards, dishes, surfaces, kitchen cloths, etc). Kitchen cloths or wipes can transfer contamination with the utmost efficiency, so it’s better to use paper towels.
7. Make sure the food handler is properly hygienic and that all kitchen surfaces are clean: Food handlers must adhere to strict hygienic rules. It’s essential that their hands are always clean; they have to wash them often and every time they go to the toilet. The kitchen must be cleaned on a daily basis, at least. And it’s important too to store garbage in washable, closed containers, with a smooth, even surface. They can’t be kept near food.
8. Protect food from insects, rodents and pets: Animals can carry pathogenic microorganisms and parasites which cause foodborne disease. Some pets (dogs, cats, turtles) often harbour dangerous microbes that can get to our hands and then be passed into food, so they must be kept away from the food preparation area.
9. Use only safe, drinking water: Water fit for human consumption is not only essential to drink, but also to prepare food. It must necessarily be bottled water or have its origin in the public water supply. Well water must not be used if it hasn’t been treated.
10. Don’t eat perishable food that’s exposed to room temperature: In bars, pubs, restaurants and cafés, all food must be protected, kept into food display cabinets and conserved under the proper sanitary conditions. It must be refrigerated when necessary. Consumers must require these standards are observed, and if they detect that’s not so, food should be rejected.
Fresh, healthy food
In such a hot time of year our body will be grateful if we eat cool, light meals. They will help us to enjoy a healthy summer, feeling perfectly satisfied and hydrated.
It’s not a matter of eating less, but of choosing a different diet, as we need less calories and more hydration. For instance, we can include fruit, vegetables and cold recipes in our daily fare, instead of rich, greasy, elaborate dishes, and we will be able to satisfy our appetite without gaining weight, and at the same time we’ll keep our skin well nourished and hydrated.
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