Maintaining healthy practices when using raw or cooked foods helps prevent illness.
Medical Advisor Luis Norberto Correa Sánchez
According to the WHO, 70% of cases of diarrhea are caused by the consumption of contaminated food or water. Luis Norberto Correa Sánchez, general practitioner and specialist in medical law, explains that this is why, “…the prevalence of food poisoning in Colombia is approximately 26,000 for every 100,000 inhabitants, with an average of 55% of these cases being diarrhoeal diseases.” Hepatitis A and salmonella are also diseases caused by the consumption of contaminated foods or beverages.
Some common symptoms that can lead to the diagnosis of a foodborne illness include stomach aches, cramping, vomiting, nausea, fever, chills, general discomfort and breathing problems. According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health, only 5% of people that use the bathroom wash their hands long enough to eliminate the germs that can cause these infections.
In order to avoid these symptoms and potential illnesses due to poor habits, it is important to implement healthy food hygiene practices when cooking.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before touching food by scrubbing the back and front of your hands, in between your fingers and underneath your nails. According to the manual, “Five keys to safe eating,” this prevents 35% of all diarrhoeal diseases.
- Keep raw foods separate from cooked or prepared foods, as microorganisms can be passed on to cooked or prepared foods. Also, use different equipment, knives and cutting boards for both raw and cooked foods. If you are going to store the food in the fridge, do so with an airtight container.
- Do not use the same cutting board you use for fish with chicken, meat or vegetables. To prevent illness, use a clean cutting board for each one (four cutting boards of a different color), as meat and vegetables involve different bacteria.
- Wash your fruits and vegetables with a little soap and rinse them well. Then, to disinfect them, let them soak for 10 to 15 minutes in a solution of one liter of water to tablespoons of baking soda or vinegar.
- Wash your washcloths, sponges and kitchen towels with soap and water, then let them soak in a water and baking soda or vinegar solution to disinfect them. Allow them to dry as microbes reproduce quickly in unsanitary and moist places. Change them often.
- Before and after cooking, wash your utensils, cooking supplies and kitchen counters. When you taste your food for consistency and flavor, make a habit of using a different recipient or different utensils each time.
- Use a hat that can cover your hair so it does not come into contact with food, wear a face mask to prevent fluids escaping from your nose or mouth and wear an apron to protect the food from coming into contact with any dirty clothes.
- Cover your food with aluminum foil, plastic wrap or a lid. Keep the lid of your garbage closed to prevent foods from coming into contact with insects. Properly dispose of your waste.
- Do not use your cell phone while you are cooking because this can contain bacteria that can contaminate food or the area you are preparing it in. As a preventative measure, try to not go to the bathroom if you are cooking.
- Avoid wearing rings, bracelets and watches while cooking because they can be contaminants. They can also be dangerous and get caught on something.
Cross contamination is the transmission of a contaminating substance (bacteria, chemical or physical product) from a contaminated food product to an uncontaminated one through surfaces that first contact the contaminated product, then touch the uncontaminated one. This occurs, for example, when you use a knife to cut raw chicken or meat, then use it again on cooked or prepared food without washing it; or if a raw food is placed on a cutting board and then a cooked or prepared food contacts it without it being disinfected.