Threats as dangerous as the virus
As covid-19 cases peaked during the past six months, many countries have witnessed their economies dwindle. According to the world food program, although harvest and livelihood are thriving well in some countries, the distribution of supplies proved to be a great challenge, especially after imposing checkpoints. With the threat of food insecurity on the line, many civilians now struggle to find the means to provide for their families and to survive this crisis. It resulted in panic-buying, supplies hoarding, and opting for cheaper food items among the people which may not be beneficial to their health, but enough to feed their families.
With an unseen threat lurking in the neighbourhood, enhancing precautionary measures to protect each individual, their needs, and their health is now considered as the “new normal”.
Selecting healthy and safe foods
Purchasing fresh ingredients is the first step to consuming safe foods. Amid the global pandemic, mobility is limited; thus, door-step deliveries of food supplies are highly utilized. But how do people know if the supposed sustenance they purchased is “fresh” and “safe” to consume?
For starters, it would be better to identify what kind of food they are purchasing as there are three types:
Perishable foods are meats, poultry, seafood – either sold as fresh or frozen that should be consumed immediately. In determining its freshness, it is important to note that the product is odourless, firm, does not disintegrate easily, no rough, sandy texture to it, no visible insects. As for seafood, clear eyes, and intact scales for fish, while pearl-like flesh for crustaceans and shells closing when touched are considered.
Perishable foods also include products that require refrigeration. For eggs, there should be no cracks and is thick, firm, and odourless when opened. For fresh produce, make sure that it does not have holes as it could be an indicator of insects, there should not be any black spots on the surface, and its skin should not easily peel off.
Semi-perishable foods can be stored longer than perishables with or without refrigeration such as crop vegetables, dairy, and unripe fruits. While it is seemingly different from the ones mentioned above, the indicators of its freshness are similar.
However, it is essential to note that once these products are unsealed, it should be stored in the refrigerator to maintain its shelf life. Always be on the lookout for the manufacturing date, or signs of curdling or moulds as these are determinants whether the product is still fresh or is up for disposal.
Bread and pastries, and frozen goods (e.g. Hotdog, dumplings) are also semi-perishable. However, it is important to store them in the appropriate temperatures (0 – 40of), take note of their expiration dates, there should be no holes in the packaging, the seal is not broken, there are no insects presents, no moulds, and no sour smell for the frozen goods.
Non-perishable foods, on the other hand, can be stored for months even without refrigeration. These are rice, uncooked pasta, dried or bottled goods, canned foods, etc. Make sure that there are no holes, insects, punctures, dents, cracks, spills, bulging or bloating, especially for the products in cans. However, keep your pantries clean and free from pests and pets to avoid contamination.
Before storage and use, it is necessary to wash fresh ingredients and clean the surfaces of packed food items. Proper waste disposal should also be observed.
To keep these foods fresh, it is important to keep this in mind:
- Take note of the expiration dates
- Appropriate storage conditions
- Practice “fifo” (first in-first out)
- When in doubt, throw it out.
- Keep foods away from the “temperature danger zone” (41 – 140o f)
Practising proper food safety and sanitation
Amidst the threat of covid-19, extra precautionary measures should be taken in our everyday life as the “new normal”. This involves stricter implementation and compliance with food safety regulations.
Practising cleanliness and sanitation are the fundamental steps in achieving food safety. This includes proper handwashing with soap and clean water frequently, especially every time one comes into contact with dirty surfaces and body parts. The use of personal protective equipment (ppes) is also used in kitchens.
Kitchen ppes consist of the apron, disposable gloves, hair net, and mask, particularly for those serving food to large quantities of consumers. Jewellery should be removed, and nails need to be trimmed and unpainted to avoid contamination.
Work stations are required to be clean and free from pests at all times, through wiping off spills, and proper garbage disposal. It is also important to note the separation of raw and cooked foods in containers and used kitchen tools to prevent cross-contamination. Different cooking styles may be applied, but always ensure that food is cooked thoroughly in their appropriate temperatures (≥140o f) to avoid foodborne illnesses.
Consumption of safe foods starts with purchasing quality ingredients, storing foods in their proper storage conditions, stricter adherence to food safety measures, and thoroughly cooking food in its appropriate temperatures. Proper hygiene, enhanced precautionary measures, regular exercise and consuming well-balanced, nutritious meals are good enough to enhance our bodies’ defences so that we may be able to face our daily activities.