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Monday, 1 April 2013

Food Safety – Often Forgotten Tips

Several avenues are used by different agencies to publicize food safety tips. The Healthy Canadians web site provides a very good example.

An important consideration that is often forgotten in many of the tips offered is the fact that food safety concerns are not limited to microbiological (pathogen) contamination and allergens. 


The typical five tips (courtesy of the Healthy Canadians web site) are: 
  1. Read labels carefully
  2. Cook: Always cook food to the safe internal temperature. You can check this by using a digital food thermometer.
  3. Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces often with warm, soapy water.
  4. Chill: Always refrigerate food and leftovers promptly at 4°C or below.
  5. Separate: Make sure to always separate your raw foods, such as meat and eggs, from cooked foods and vegetables 
Tip #6 may soon be coming from an agency near you: "Read the Recall Notices

With respect to reading the labels, it is a very important tip for food buyers to learn the susceptibilities among the groups for whom food is purchased and/or served. Pre-supposing that label declarations are honest and handling and cooking instructions are correct as they need to be, reading the labels could prevent death.

Deadly Kindness

One often forgotten tip is the need to let the supplier know about detected issues with the food they supply. Some people are so kind that they do not wish to “rock the boat”. So they do not bother to let the suppliers know when they encounter problems with products. For example, they may be reluctant to report observations like expired products with odd smells (some expired products can have harmful oxidative by-products). "No-need-to-rock-the-boat" individuals may not bother to report minor irritations (stomach or otherwise) that can be attributed to a product consumed, etc. While the intention of not “rocking the boat” with suppliers may seem kind and commendable in some respects it may turn out to be deadly kindness. Suppliers may not know about and act on issues that could turn out to be disastrous for other consumers and the company.

Kindness could also be deadly if food that is potentially contaminated (microbiologically or otherwise) is sold at discount price or even provided free to persons in need. They may need food but they also need to be safe. All food, whether kindly given to the "needy"  or not, must undergo stringent contamination mitigation and quality control measures. 

Summary:

Along with the other tips that you may find elsewhere, be observant to detect susceptibilities among the groups for whom you purchase food - your family or a group outside of your family such as, school cafeterias, hospitals, retirement homes. In many situations, all known susceptibilities could be present and food purchasers or providers need to be aware to take the proper precautions and actions. Secondly, let the suppliers (at least the retailers) know about observed issues with purchased products. You could make it your act of kindness not to ask for compensation.

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