Health Day Highlights Food Safety

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Every year, the World Health Organisation selects a priority area of global public health concern as the theme for World Health Day, which falls on 7th April, the birthday of the Organization. The theme for World Health Day 2015 is Food Safety, a theme of high relevance to all people as well as government, the private sector, and intergovernmental agencies.

World Health Day 2015 is an opportunity to alert the public to the importance of food safety, and the part each person can play in ensuring that the food we eat is safe.

In order to ensure that the safety of food in the Cayman Islands is treated as a high priority, the Food Safety Team of the Department of Environmental Health currently undertakes food premises hygiene inspections, food hygiene training, inspections of imported food containers, local post-mortem meat inspections, investigation of food related complaints, food recall surveillance, food condemnations, food and water sampling, and infectious disease investigations.

Director, Environmental Health, Roydell Carter says that, “Food safety must be everyone’s concern since there are so many potential sources for contamination; we all need to ensure at every stage that foods are kept safe for consumption”.

The combined efforts of the various regulatory agencies inclusive of the DEH, the Department of Agriculture and the Department Public Health have resulted in very low incidence of foodborne illness being reported by the CI Health Service Authority. However, the cooperation of many businesses and the public has also contributed to keeping foods safe for consumption. Mr. Roydell Carter, DEH Director stated that he would like to commend the staff from the various agencies for their vigilant efforts and dedication to ensuring that food is safe for the Cayman public.

In keeping with the WHO theme, the Department of Environmental Health is taking this opportunity to inform the public of the importance of food safety and to highlight some of the causes of foodborne illness.

For more details on World Health Day 2015 visit . For further information about Food Safety in the Cayman Islands, please visit the Department of Environmental Health (DEH) website or call 949-6696.

Key Facts
• Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is essential to sustaining life and promoting good health.
• Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases - ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.
• Foodborne and waterborne diarrhoeal diseases kill an estimated 2 million people globally every year, including many children.
• Food safety, nutrition and food security are inextricably linked. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, elderly and the sick.
• Foodborne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems, and harming national economies, tourism and trade.
• Food supply chains now cross multiple national borders. Good collaboration between governments, producers and consumers helps ensure food safety.

What is a foodborne illness?
Foodborne illnesses are usually infectious or toxic in nature and caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food or water.

What are the main causes of foodborne illness?
1. Bacteria are among the most common foodborne pathogens that affect millions of people annually – sometimes with severe and fatal outcomes. Symptoms are fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Examples of foods involved in outbreaks are products of animal origin, eggs, poultry, drinking water, fresh fruits and vegetables.

2. Viruses are spread typically through raw or undercooked foods or contaminated raw produce. Infected food handlers are often the source of food contamination.

3. Parasites: Parasites can be transmitted through food or direct contact with animals or can enter the food chain via water or soil and can contaminate fresh produce.

4. Prions: Prions are unique in that they are associated with specific forms of neurodegenerative disease e.g. BSE, or "mad cow disease".

5. Chemicals: Naturally occurring toxins e.g. toxins from mould, and environmental pollutants and heavy metals can contaminate foods and accumulate in the food chain.

The World Health Organisation has highlighted Five Keys to Safer Food:

1. Keep Clean
• Wash your hands before handling food and often during food preparation
• Wash your hands after going to the toilet
• Wash and sanitise all surfaces and equipment used for food preparation
• Protect kitchen areas and food from insects, pests and other animals

2. Separate Raw and Cooked Food
• Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods
• Use separate equipment and utensils such as knives and cutting boards for handling raw foods
• Store food in containers to avoid contact between raw and cooked foods

3. Cook Food Thoroughly
• Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood
• Bring foods like soups and stews to a boil to make sure they have reached 70C. For meat and poultry make sure that juices are clear, not pink. Ideally, use a thermometer.
• Reheat cooked food thoroughly

4. Keep Food Temperatures Safe
• Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours
• Refrigerate promptly all cooked and perishable foods (Below 5C)
• Keep cooked food piping hot (more than 63C) prior to serving
• Do not store food too long even in the refrigerator
• Do not thaw frozen food at room temperature

5. Use Safe Water and Raw Materials
• Use safe water or treat it to make it safe
• Select fresh and wholesome foods
• Choose foods processed for safety, such as pasteurised milk
• Wash fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw
• Do not use food beyond its expiry date or foods with damaged packaging e.g. dented cans

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