The slogan of World Health Organization on April 7, 2017, World Health Day, "from farm to plate, make food safe," must be everyone's concern. Nearly everyone on the planet has encountered an unpleasant moment of food-borne illness resulting from food contaminated by toxic chemicals or microbial pathogens. Food poisoning of this nature can lead to serious illness and even death.
Against the backdrop of the globalization of our food supply, varying food habits, and mass catering establishment popularization, it is becoming increasingly fundamental to public welfare to ensure food safety.
Five keys to safer food
The effort to train and educate food handlers and consumers gave birth to WHO's Five Keys to Safer Food. These five keys are:
- Maintain a clean surface for food by washing all plates, cutlery, platters and utensils immediately after using them.
- Keep raw and cooked food apart.
- Maintain appropriate temperature by cooking food thoroughly.
- Maintain safe temperature while serving and storing food.
- Use safe water and raw materials.
Consumers must approach food safety with utmost attention throughout harvesting, transportation, processing, storage and preparation. People – especially those in urban settings – generally store their perishable food in a refrigerator or freezer. But they need to know how they can safely store or reheat the food.
Attributes of food quality and safety
When referring to food quality, we are talking about the negative and positive attributes that determines consumer's value. The origin, texture, method of processing and flavor are positive attributes. On the other hand, bad tastes, contamination and discolouration are some of the negative attributes. However, unsafe foods may be of good quality, like using strong spices for tainted meat.
Food storage starts with a cautious approach to the food production chain in order to prevent contamination and infection. Whether the issues are acute or chronic that can cause harm to the consumer's health, food safety is all about preventing such hazards from happening.
Evaluating food quality
Our eyes, nose, mouth and other sensory organs traditionally evaluate qualities of foods. The sensory evaluation practiced commonly by a panel of judges of food regulatory authorities to judge the quality of food. Evaluating the quality of food is done through the senses of taste, sight, hearing and touch for measurement, interpretation and analysis.
With sensory evaluation, careful sampling of food is vital. This is because the contamination of food by adulteration and pesticides through sensory technique alone may not be efficient. Through chemical evaluation, food quality is tested through the physical method of analysis as well as physiochemical and chemical methods.
To find out about the elements of decomposition of signs of adulteration in foods, and also to determine the nutritive values of foods before and after cooking, chemical methods are utilized. However, measuring the physical properties and volume of foods is the popular objective evaluation.
Eating safe foods
While locally produced food may not be harmful, it can be exposed to harmful bacteria during the process of growing or harvesting. Good sanitation practices must be encouraged for farmers and distributors to reduce the contamination of foods. As for consumers, cooking food properly in hygienic environment is essential.
Consumers must also take precautions while buying vegetables and fruits in the market. Vegetables that are bright, firm, and crisp without any sign of decay are good. It is always advisable to watch out for fruits and vegetables with artificial colours. Best practice is to buy them in season in order to get a high quality and a low price.