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Food safety and nutrition is a very important concern for any family. It is important to understand that protecting oneself and the family from illnesses caused by food poisoning does not start at the home, but from the marketplace, supermarket, or any other place where you get your food supply intended for storage and preparation. Foodborne illnesses have been found to be the cause of about 325000 hospital admissions and 5200 deaths across the country each year (Thomasson, 2009). The following are some simple ways that a person can do to ensure food safety and nutrition while shopping, storing or preparing food to protect themselves or family against foodborne illness.
I. Food purchase
Purchase food from a reputable retailer, with a good reputation of safe handling of foodstuff. Purchase food whose “use by” or “sell by” date has not expired. Buy food balled “keep refrigerated” if they were stored in a refrigerator, and are cold when touched (Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, 2006).
Ensure that you avoid cross-contamination between fresh foods and potentially hazardous foods. Purchase perishable food last, and keep items that are frozen together to maintain the cold temperatures (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 2002).
II. Food storage
The values and quality of the food you purchase depends on how you store it. Proper storage ensures that your food is safe from spoilage, which leads to food poisoning by harmful bacteria (Thomasson, 2009). To avoid food spoilage, purchase and store the amount of food that you can properly store without overcrowding the refrigerator. Ensure that air circulates freely by arranging the food items properly (United States, 2003).
III. Food preparation
Proper food handling and preparation can effectively help food safety and nutrition in addition to preventing foodborne illnesses. When preparing food, always make sure your hands and the cooking items you will use are clean (Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, 2006). Always make sure that the raw foods are separated to avoid germs spreading from one food item to another. Ensure that food is well cooked to kill germs (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 2002).
Illnesses or problems safety issues might cause, and ways to prevent the illnesses or problems.
Parasites, bacteria, chemicals and viruses are the main elements that affect food safety and nutrition leading to foodborne illnesses. Common signs and symptoms of foodborne illnesses include diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and abdominal pains (Thomasson, 2009). In children below 10 years, complications of foodborne illnesses can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and long-term health problems (United States, 2003). Some foodborne illnesses cause serious health complication. A chemical called C. botulinium found in fish can cause have adverse effect on muscles responsible for breathing. L. monocytogenes can lead to still births or spontaneous abortion in expectant women (Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, 2006).
These foodborne illnesses can be avoided by observing proper food and nutrition hygiene during purchasing, storage, preparation, and handling of food. Harmful bacteria that cause illness can be killed by cooking the food long enough using enough heat (United States, 2003). Washing fruits and vegetables under running water before eating or cooking them helps to prevent germs entering the digestive system.
Washing hands with a lot of water and soap before preparing food, especially after changing diapers or visiting the bathroom, is important in preventing foodborne illnesses (Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, 2006). Foodborne illnesses can be reduced by ensuring that utensils, surfaces or any other items used to prepare food are washed before and after use to make food (United States, 2003).
Recommendations where you might search for more information regarding food safety.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) website provides a lot of information about food safety and nutrition useful to anyone wishing to learn about food safety and nutrition. The Center for Disease Control page contains useful links such as, functions of the CDC Food Safety Office; general information about foodborne illnesses; and prevention and education resource information. The Center for Disease Control website is the best site where a person wishing to learn more about food safety and nutrition, and foodborne illnesses, can access a lot of learning material. The site provides a page or index containing all foodborne illnesses listed in alphabetical order from bacterial, fungal, parasitic, viral, non-infectious foodborne illnesses (Center for Disease Control, n.d).
Another resourceful website related to food safety and nutrition is the Foodsafety.gov website. This site contains resourceful pages such as how to keep food safe by food type, steps to ensure food safety, causes of food poisoning, effects, vulnerable groups, and what the government is doing to ensure food safety. This website also contains useful links of reporting food poisoning in addition to a link where an individual can ask food safety experts questions relating to food safety and health (Foodsafety.gov, n.d).
Criteria that you must use to determine credible sources of nutritional information.
There are various ways that an individual can use to determine the credibility of food safety and nutrition information. First, it is important to identify who is the author of the information. After identifying the author, it is crucial to determine if the author of the information has authority of expertise in the field of food safety and nutrition they are writing. Information that is provided by an author whose field of expertise is not related to the information cannot be termed as credible. A credible information or source should be provided by an author whose credentials and qualifications are connected to the topic of the information. The connection between the information and the institution or organization sponsoring it is important to determine whether the information is credible (Gerber, 2011).
The publication date is another criterion that can be used to determine the credibility of information. Information whose date is up-to-date can be relied to provide credible information as compared to a material that is outdated. When searching for information on the internet, a website that is regularly updated shows that the author is serious and cares about the information provided making the source credible (Gerber, 2011).
Why is it important for you to use these criteria when searching for information on nutrition and health?
Advance in technology in the current age has enabled many people to access information and resources about food safety and nutrition easily than before. Advice on food safety and nutrition is currently widely available in magazines, books, and the internet. The internet is one major area where food safety and nutrition is widely published and accessible compared to any other source of information. Any person can decide to write and publish nutritional information on the internet, which makes it important for individual seeking nutritional information using the internet to have a critical eye to determine credible sources of internet information. Although search engines rank information by looking at the idea of the author and depend on assumptions of what they believe to be relevant, this criterion does not make the source credible to acquire information about nutrition and health. Developing a character of evaluating source credibility based on various indicators such as connection of the topic to the author, source of publication, documented evidence to support information, and intended audience can assist in evaluating the credibility of the source to decide whether the information is reliable.
Centre for Disease Control (CDC). (n.d). Accessed from http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (U.S.). (2006). Seniors and food safety: Preventing foodborne illness. College Park, Md.: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Foodsafety.gov. Accessed from http://www.foodsafety.gov/
Gerber, L. (2011). Cited!: Identifying credible information online. New York: Rosen Central.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (U.S.). (2002). Foodborne diseases. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Thomasson, L. F. (2009). Food protection and safety. New York: Nova Science.
United States. (2003). Food safety and food security: What consumers need to know. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service.