Thursday, 7 July, 2022
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WORLD FOOD SAFETY DAY 2022

Safe Food— a Crying Need To Ensure Better Health

Prof. Dr. Tazul Islam Chowdhury and Prof. Dr. Ariful Islam

Safe Food— a Crying Need To Ensure Better Health

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World Food Safety Day is celebrated annually on 7 June to draw attention and mobilize action to prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks and improve human health. World Health Organization (WHO) announces the theme for this year’s World Food Safety Day, “Safer food, better health”.

Safe food is one of the most critical guarantors for good health. Unsafe foods are the cause of many diseases and contribute to other poor health conditions, such as impaired growth and development, micronutrient deficiencies, non-communicable or communicable diseases and mental illness. Globally, one in ten people are contracted by foodborne diseases annually.

We need to transform food systems to deliver better health in a sustainable manner in order to prevent most foodborne diseases. Food systems policymakers, practitioners and investors are invited to reorient their activities to increase the sustainable production and consumption of safe foods in order to improve health outcomes.

The United Nations General Assembly established World Food Safety Day in 2018 to raise awareness of this important issue. WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) jointly facilitate the observance of World Food Safety Day, in collaboration with Member States and other stakeholders.

Bangladesh is a densely populated country in the world. Food safety issue is emerging as a vital issue in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) under the Ministry of Food was established in 2015 following the 2013 Food Safety Act. The main duties and functions of BFSA are "to regulate and monitor the activities related to manufacturing, importing, processing, storage, distribution, and sale of food so as to ensure access of safe food through exercise of appropriate scientific methods and to coordinate the activities of all organizations concerned with food safety management”. The BFSA is the main governing body for ensuring food safety and for establishing rules and regulations. This includes setting permissible limits of chemical contaminants, microbial contaminants, heavy metals, processing aids and food additives, mycotoxins, and MRLs of pesticides, veterinary and fishery drugs, antibiotics, etc. Food safety at the farm production level is controlled by the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), Department of Fisheries (DOF), and Department of Livestock Services (DLS). Per the Act, the BFSA has a role in coordinating the activities of DAE, DOF, and DLS by establishing a food safety network up to the field level. After the farm products become food, they are classified and monitored by the BFSA to control adulterated foods and food additives.

New challenges to food safety will continue to emerge, largely because of changes in our food production and supply, including more imported foods; change in the environment leading to food contamination; better detection of multistate outbreaks; changes in consumer preferences and habits; changes in the tests that diagnose foodborne illness etc.

To overcome these challenges we should first concentrate at our home. Food Safety is not just for restaurants or hospitals. Many foodborne illnesses can occur as the result of improper handling of food in home. When it comes to food safety, a lot of people are completely in the dark. There are a number of illnesses that can arise when food is cooked or handled improperly. Food poisoning is often associated with meats; however, dairy products, produce, canned goods and more can also be sources of food poisoning. That is why it is important to handle all foods with caution. To prevent yourself from making a minor mistake that could turn out to become a major issue, follow these four steps recommended by food safety authorities:

Clean

Always clean your hands before cooking or handling food. This means washing for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap. Also, clean the preparation area and any equipment you are going to use. How often do you wash fruits and vegetables before use? Washing produce helps decrease pathogens that could make you sick, gets rid of pesticides or chemicals on the outside of the produce and washes all the germs that may have contaminated produce while in the grocery store. It’s important to also wash produce with an outer rind, such as cantaloupe, before cutting into it as you could carry the germs into the edible portion of the fruit. Remember not to wash the produce with a rag or sponge that is also used for dishes. There is an exception to this however; we should not wash raw meat, because any bacteria present are likely spread throughout the meat, and you carry more risk of spreading the germs in the sink area by washing it. Any bacteria should be destroyed if cooked to the proper temperature.

Separate

To prevent cross contamination, use separate cutting boards and tools, such as knives, for meat and produce. You should also never use the same board to prepare cooked meat if you just had raw meat on the same surface. Keep meats separate from other foods in the fridge or freezer. Whenever possible, put raw meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge. This way if the container starts to leak, there will not be food below it to contaminate.

Cook

The only way to be sure to kill off bacteria is to cook food to the proper temperature and you can’t tell this by just looking at it. Every kitchen should have an instant read food thermometer that should be used every time to determine if meat is cooked to the proper temperature.

Chill

Keep foods chilled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder to prevent any bacteria growth. Plan your meals for the week so that you allow time to thaw food properly by placing them in the fridge. If you didn’t allow time for that, you can run under cool running water or use a defrost setting on a microwave instead of sitting food out on the counter (but you must cook following microwave thawing to complete the cooking process). Throw foods out that have not been properly thawed and stored.

 

The writers are members of Food

Safety Research Group, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Dhaka