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Roncesvalles Garayoa, Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics

Summer food safety

Mon, 19 Aug 2013 10:34:00 +0000 Published in Diari de Tarragona, Diari de Tarragona, Heraldo de Aragón

According to the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN), foodborne diseases, also known as 'food-borne toxiinfections', are those pathologies caused by the ingestion of food contaminated with biological agents or their toxins such as bacteria, viruses or parasites. Some examples are: Salmonella, botulinum toxin, Listeria monocytogenes or Anisakis, which produce salmonellosis, botulism, listeriosis or anisakiasis, respectively.

Several epidemiological programs of study have shown that most of the food-borne infections and intoxications that have been recorded come from households, so the consumer, the protagonist of good hygiene practices at the last stage of the food chain, is manager to acquire, preserve, cook and serve food ensuring its sanitary quality.

The high temperatures typical of summer favor the development of microorganisms, so it is necessary to take special care of hygienic measures during the purchase, handling and storage of food.

Finally, the time between purchase and storage at home should be as short as possible, especially for foods that require refrigeration.

A few tips

1. How to shop. It is necessary to check the state of the packages, the information of the labeling without forgetting the date of expiration or of preferential consumption, not to acquire foods that must be conserved in cold but that are exposed to ambient temperature and to reject the tin cans that are oxidized or that have areas with bulges. Foods that arerefrigerated and frozenRefrigerated and frozen foods should be purchased at the end of the purchase. ResAs regards the latter, check that they are well preserved in freezers at -18ºC and with no signs of defrosting, since if they have been totally or partially defrosted they cannot be refrozen. Special attention should be paid to special offers. Sometimes, these are foods with a short shelf life, so buy only the amount to be consumed before deadline. Finally, the time between purchase and storage at home should be as short as possible, especially for foods that require refrigeration.

2. How to handle food. During food preparation, it is recommended:
- Wash hands with soap and water before handling any food, after touching raw food and always after going to the toilet, touching animals....
- Clean the support surfaces such as tables, countertops or cutting boards, as well as knives and other kitchen utensils after each use, and especially after preparing raw food.

- Cook food correctly, avoiding raw food inside, especially meat, poultry, eggs and fish. Correct cooking cooking, reaching 70ºC throughout the food, eliminates dangerous microorganisms. Signs of proper cooking are as follows: meat becomes grayish in color, chicken is no longer pink, egg whites and yolks should be set, and fish has firm, white flesh.
- Consume food immediately after cooking. If not, they should be kept refrigerated. In any case, do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than one hour.
- Reheat a previously cooked food that has been refrigerated or thawed, reaching a temperature of at least 70ºC for at least 15 seconds. And only the amount to be consumed should be reheated, thus avoiding multiple reheating that increases the likelihood of foodborne toxicosis.