Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Ensuring food safety

Jesson J. Morata - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – Do you more often than not eat food that is sold in the streets? Is this because it is readily available and you won't have to burden yourself to prepare and cook food? Is it because it is cheap? Better ask yourself these questions and determine where the habit is leading you to.

Improper food preparation and handling has endangered the lives of people - and has even caused deaths. Food poisoning has made headlines in Cebu for several times. Just last year, several incidents of food poisoning in the southern towns of the province have grabbed the attention of health authorities and the public as well because of its magnitude.

The Department of Health (DOH), whose primary concerns include food safety, seeks to disseminate information about the consequence of improper food handling on people's health, and to heighten public awareness about proper food preparation practices. To tackle the need for continuing education on food safety, a presidential proclamation was issued (by former President Joseph Estrada), designating the last week of October every year as the National Food Safety Awareness Week. The DOH was tasked to spearhead the observance, in cooperation with private and other government agencies.

The fact that food safety awareness warranted a presidential proclamation signifies the great importance to observe hygienic preparation and handling of food. Kitchens should be free of pests that can cause contamination. It is also important to properly and thoroughly wash food containers. Thus, the public must be wary of street food that may not have been prepared properly under hygienic conditions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) itself has published a guide, entitled "Assuring Food Safety and Quality: Guidelines for Strengthening National Food Control Systems," to enable national authorities, particularly in developing countries like the Philippines, to improve their food control systems.

The challenges for food authorities include increasing burden of food-borne illness and new and emerging food-borne hazards; rapidly changing technologies in food production, processing and marketing; developing science-based food control systems with a focus on consumer protection; international food trade and need for synchronization of food safety and quality standards; changes in lifestyles, including rapid urbanization; and the growing consumer awareness of food safety and quality issues and increasing demand for better information.

The WHO publication provides information for government agencies to assist in the development of national food control systems and to promote effective collaboration between all sectors involved in the management and control of food safety and quality. It highlights the importance of developing effective relationships and mutual support among government agencies and institutions involved in food control and other stakeholders, particularly the food industry and consumer groups.

Liberalized global trade policies, and the increasing demand of consumers for food that is healthy, tasty, and safe, have led to changes in production around the world. The recent decades have witnessed a growing competition among food manufacturers on food safety and quality to their respective market positions.

Food contamination can occur at various stages of production, preparation, and consumption. The DOH advises that frozen, pre-cooked, uncooked, grilled, and canned food must be handled properly to avoid contamination. Food safety is a more real issue among small establishments and street food vendors.

The best place to start is in the home. Illness-causing bacteria can survive and spread around the kitchen, so it is important to properly wash food ingredients and the area where food is prepared, to prevent food contamination. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparing food. Wash surfaces, cutting boards, dishes and cooking utensils with hot soapy water after each use to prevent bacteria from spreading. Sanitize sponges and replace frequently.

Wash produce under running tap water, but not meat, seafood, poultry or eggs. Bacteria can spread when raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs come in contact with ready-to-eat foods like bread and vegetables, so keep them separate. When handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, always use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils from ready-to-eat foods.

In grocery shopping, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from all other ready-to-eat foods in both the shopping cart and during bagging. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate in the refrigerator, and make sure their juices are not dripping on ready-to-eat foods.

(References: Department of Health, World Health Organization, and Home Food Safety)


vuukle comment












  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with