(Observer)Amid the bustle of food vendors supplying food to peckish patrons during Carnival time, Chief Health Inspector Sharon Martin has reminded vendors to ensure safety protocols are followed.
She was speaking on the Observer AM show yesterday.
“Remember time and temperature are quintessential to food safety. Do not go and prepare more food than you should. Allow people to order and wait. Use food from reputable sources [and] use potable water for cooking,” Martin said.
“Do not go around wearing the same apron on your clothes that are dirty…and do not use the same utensils to serve everything that you’re serving. Why? Some people are allergic to some food,” she added.
Food safety measures that are used to ensure food is safe for human consumption consist of five pillars, according to Martin.
“In Antigua, food safety is based on the five keys to safer food…Key one, keep clean. Key two, separate raw and cooked foods. Key three, cook thoroughly. Key four, keep food at safe temperatures. Key five, use safe water and raw materials,” she said.
‘Keep clean’ refers to personal hygiene, and the utensils and equipment used in food preparation. Martin warned against wearing sleeveless shirts during the preparation and selling of food.
“Wear clothing with arm sleeves. Because some of us like to have our armpits exposed. You know the bad habit; you’re sweating, or something with your arm and your hand has gone under your arm,” she stated.
In order to reduce the occurrence of food-borne illnesses through cross-contamination, it is imperative to store raw and cooked foods separately. It is also crucial to cook food thoroughly and keep it at a safe temperature to prevent the growth of bacteria.
“Hot food should be kept at 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees (Fahrenheit), or above. Cold foods should be kept 40 degrees Fahrenheit or four degrees (Celsius). Some books say five degrees Celsius or below,” Martin stated.
She added that frozen foods should be kept at -18 degrees Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit).
Additionally, expiry dates on products should be checked, and only potable water should be used in food preparation.
“Always check for the expiry date and if the date has gone, you should not purchase it…You have to look at food for signs of insect, rodent infestation,” Martin instructed.
“Use potable water for cooking. Water can be clean but not potable. If the water is not drinkable, you should not use it,” she explained.
According to britannica.com, foodborne illness refers to any sickness resulting from the consumption of foods and beverages contaminated with, in most cases, bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Food poisoning, a well-known type of foodborne illness, is caused by the presence of toxins, often produced by bacteria.
Common foodborne illness include the ingestion of E. coli via undercooked ground beef, and often results in abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhoea.
Salmonellosis is caused by the ingestion of salmonella bacteria via eggs, meat and milk, and includes symptoms of fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
Campylobacteriosis, resulting from the Campylobacter bacteria, is transmitted through drinking water, undercooked poultry, and raw milk. Accompanying symptoms include fever, nausea, severe abdominal pain, and diarrhoea.
Listeriosis is caused by the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium which is often transmitted through milk, soft cheese, ice cream, raw vegetables, and raw meat and poultry. Its symptoms include a flu-like illness accompanied by fever, fatigue and muscle aches.