Summer days are synonymous with holidays, days at the beach, swimming and other outdoor fun-related activities that we normally do not enjoy in other months.
However, this period of the year is also renowned for an increase in food-borne illnesses such as those caused by organisms like Salmonella and Campylobacteria.
This increase is influenced by several factors, mainly revolving around warm temperatures and increased outdoor food preparation such as at barbecues.
Some basic rules should be applied in such events:
- Planning is key to prevent food borne illness. Planning the type of food that will be consumed outdoors, defrosting properly (preferably in a refrigerator), washing of fruits and vegetables beforehand, ensuring to have sufficient ice to keep food cold are few examples.
- Cooking at the right temperature − i.e. above 75°C − is the only step that can reduce the amount of bacteria that may be present on certain raw foods such as burgers and chicken to acceptable levels. It is thus imperative that food should be cooked thoroughly throughout and that juices run clear.
- Cross contamination of food during storage, preparation and cooking should also be avoided. Ready to eat foods should not be allowed to come in contact with raw foods directly or indirectly. The equipment and plates used for raw meats for example, should not be used in contact with cooked and ready to eat foods.
- Hand washing and personal hygiene are an essential pillar to prepare safe food. Since this may not be always possible when eating outdoors, the use of alcohol wipes is highly recommended in such instances.
- Marinades that are used to marinate meats should not be used as sauces once the meat is cooked.
- Storage of Ready to eat food such as rice salads, sauces, desserts, sandwiches, tuna rolls, ħobż biż-żejt and also raw foods such as meats, chicken, sausages, burgers at appropriate low temperatures with sufficient ice in between until ready for use/consumption is also imperative.
Let’s enjoy summer, stay safe!
This article has been prepared by Environmental Health Officers from the Environmental Health Directorate in collaboration with the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate both within the Superintendence of Public Health as part of the World Food Safety Day Celebrations. This is organised annually by the World Health Organisation on June 7 and this year’s topic is ‘Food standards save Lives’. For more information, click here.