The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated World Health Day to be April 7 annually. Every year, a different theme is featured to help bring about awareness of a specific health topic. This year, the spotlight is on food safety. Although you handle and prepare food daily, how often do you think about the steps that need to be taken to ensure what you and your family eat is safe?
From bacterial contamination to chemical contamination to spoilage, there are many reasons to pay attention to food safety. Approximately 200 illnesses and diseases are linked to consuming unsafe food, with consequences ranging from a mild stomach upset to death. In fact, it’s estimated that two million people around the world die every year as a result of consuming unsafe food or water.
No matter where you live or how well you eat, food safety should be considered for your health and wellness. For some people, including infants, children, pregnant women, elderly and those with compromised immune systems, special care is often required.
To best protect yourself and your family, always keep the following food safety tips in mind:
- Wash your hands thoroughly before handling food.
- Store cold food in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Cook or freeze meat and other perishables before the package use-by date.
- Cook meat to proper temperatures. Poultry needs to be cooking completely (until juices run clear). Red meat is safest when cooked thoroughly but can be consumed when meat is still pink in the middle. Fish is best cooked completely as well.
- Do not leave prepared foods out. Consume the meal, then place leftovers in BPA-free plastic, steel or glass containers in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Leftovers should be consumed within 2-3 days.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables well before eating raw or cooking.
Become a conscientious consumer and know that foods that are not kept at the right temperature can lead to growth of bacteria and viruses. This is a serious health risk to you and your family. If something does not seem right, do not eat it!
Also, processed foods should be avoided as much a possible, as they often contain chemicals and preservatives (to encourage a longer shelf life) which can adversely affect your health. Make a point of reading food labels, and try to eat things that contain five real food ingredients or less.
For more information about food safety, check out this WHO fact sheet.