JIS News

For this festive season, the public is being urged to practise proper food safety measures as well as proper hygiene, so as to limit the cases of food-borne illnesses.
Unsafe food storage in particular, can lead to food-borne illnesses that may cause diarrhoea, vomiting and fever, among other problems.
According to Audrey Morris, Nutritionist and Food Safety Officer at the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI), food-related diseases can cause death in infants, the elderly and those whose immune systems have been compromised. “You want to be very careful when handling food for these persons,” she warned.
Ms. Morris is therefore urging Jamaicans to bear in mind, the five keys to food safety as listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and there are: to keep the kitchen area and hands clean when preparing food; use separate cutting boars for raw meats and vegetables; cook food thoroughly to kill harmful micro-organisms; keep food at safe temperatures, which means keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold and; always use safe water.
Other tips for food safety, Ms. Morris said, include monitoring time and temperature control as food taken from the refrigerator and kept at room temperature for long periods, could develop harmful bacteria. “It is advisable to keep food out of the refrigerator for not more than two hours. If it is more than two hours it might be very unsafe. So either keep the food in the refrigerator, or on a warmer,” she advised.
Care should also be taken when thawing meat, she said, pointing out that the container holding the meat should be put at the bottom of the refrigerator so as not to have any bloody juices dripping on the foods on the shelves below.
In terms of food storage, Ms. Morris said that many persons failed to check their refrigerators and freezers to see if the temperatures were correct. The fridge should be at four degrees centigrade or less, and the freezer should be at minus 18 degrees centigrade or less, otherwise storing food in them might not be safe.
Cooked food, she also warned, should not be stored in the fridge for more than three to four days.
Ms. Morris further offered important advice about the use of mayonnaise. She noted that while mayonnaise was quite safe in the bottle as it has been property preserved through pasteurisation, problems arose when persons use it when making potato salad or macaroni salad and ignore important steps.
“When you use warm ingredients with the mayonnaise, you are breaking down the whole environment thereby making the food unsafe. It is best to use chilled ingredients when mixing in mayonnaise. That means chill the potato or macaroni before putting it in,” she implored.
Once the salad is made, she said, it should be stored either in the refrigerator or in an ice bath immediately. “When you are having a buffet for instance, it should be sitting in an ice bath on the table,” she added.
Another issue, she noted, was the proper preparation of eggnog, a popular tradition on Christmas morning. She said that many persons made eggnog with raw eggs not knowing if the eggs were safe. “If they are not safe, it can make the entire family ill, so you need to revisit how you prepare eggnog,” she said.
“There are recipes where the ingredients are cooked lightly and it is safer to use those recipes,” she continued.
Ms. Morris also reminded the public to be careful about going out and purchasing food. “You need to be careful.know your source when you are buying food. Look at the surroundings to see if there is a permit displayed indicating that the owners are certified to be selling cooked food,” she said.
In response to the high number of cases of food-borne illnesses affecting Jamaican households over a period of six months, the CFNI collaborated with Ministry of Health to launch a Food Safety Public Education Campaign in February, to educate the public about proper food hygiene.
The campaign focused on the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Catherine, and St. Ann, and ran for a period of two months covering food handling matters, including the washing of hands with soap, disinfecting the food preparation area and the handling of leftover foods.
According to a study initiated by the CFNI, there are on average 10,000 episodes of diarrhoea every month from poor food hygiene alone.