Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 12th 2015 Contents 3
Subregional Advisor on Veterinary Public Health,
PAHO/WHO Office in Trinidad and Tobago
The World Declaration on Nutrition (1992)
states that "access to nutritionally adequate
and safe food is a basic individual right. Ac-
cess to sufficient amounts of safe and nutri-
tious food is key to sustaining life and good
The great majority of people will experience a
food or water borne disease at some point in
their lives. This highlights the importance of
making sure the food we eat is not contami-
nated with potentially harmful bacteria, para-
sites, viruses, toxins and chemicals.
"Food safety: from farm to plate, make food
safe" is the theme of World Health Day 2015.
The day focuses on demonstrating the impor-
tance of food safety along the whole length of
the food chain in a globalised world, from pro-
duction and transport, to preparation and con-
Over the past half century, the process by
which food gets from the farm to the plate
has changed drastically. Food contamination
that occurs in one place may affect the health
of consumers living on the other side of the
planet. This means that everyone along the
production chain, from producer to consumer,
must observe safe food handling practices.
Foodborne diseases are illnesses that are
transmitted by eating contaminated food.
These diseases have many different symp-
toms, so there is no one "syndrome" that is
foodborne illness. However, the microbe or
toxin enters the body through the gastroin-
testinal tract, and often causes the first symp-
toms there, so nausea, vomiting, abdominal
cramps and diarrhea are common symptoms
in many foodborne diseases. Food contami-
nated with heavy metals or with naturally oc-
curring toxins can also cause long-term
health problems including cancer and neuro-
logical disorders. These foodborne diseases
have an adverse effect on the national econ-
omy, by reducing labour productivity, confi-
dence in safe tourism, food production and
Tourism depends on a safe and reliable
food supply. Although safe food cannot as-
sure a hotel's success, outbreaks of food
borne illness can lead to its failure. In 2003,
the Public Health Inspectorate closed a
prominent Tobago hotel for three months due
to an outbreak of food borne illness, causing
190 persons to lose their income for three
months. The same hotel kitchen was closed
again in 2007, due to an outbreak in which 60
guests experienced vomiting and diarrhea.
Outbreaks of foodborne illness pose a chal-
lenge to public health all over the world, but
poor countries and poor people bear most of
the burden. Poor people have less access to
water (to wash hands and cooking utensils),
refrigeration, and sanitary facilities (such as
flush toilets). Such conditions can also occur
in emergency situations, during floods or
after hurricanes and major earthquakes that
disrupt electricity and water supplies.
Many foodborne diseases are caused by
improper food handling practices by persons
who prepare food at home or in restaurants.
Poor hygiene, lack of clean water and sanita-
tion and an unsanitary environment can all
contribute to food contamination. The risk of
foodborne illness is increased by improper
cooking, storage or holding temperature, poor
personal hygiene of the food handler, includ-
ing insufficient hand washing, cross contami-
nation, contaminated raw food ingredients
and food obtained from an unsafe source.
For practical advice on how to prepare food
safely, please see the WHO 5 Keys to Safer
Food. The most critically important precau-
tion is to wash your hands with soap and
water for 20 seconds after using the bath-
room or handling raw chicken, meat or fish.
So, how safe is YOUR food? Do you buy
safe wholesome food that has not reached its
expiry date? Do you wash your fruit and veg-
etables well before eating or cooking them?
Do you wash your hands thoroughly (with
soap and water) before and during food prepa-
ration, and after using the toilet?
Do you separate raw meat, poultry and
seafood from other food? Do you cook and re-
heat them thoroughly at high temperatures?
Do you refrigerate cooked and perishable food?
There are many things that we can do to pre-
vent food borne illness. Let's make these a habit!
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt April 12, 2015
HEAD OF DESIGN
ASSOCIATE EDITOR SPU
PAHO/WHO, SANDRA VOKATY,
DESIGN & LAYOUT
RICHARD YACOOB, KEITH LANCASTER
SPECIAL PUBLICATIONS ENQUIRIES
623-8872 EXT: 2470
Special Publications Unit [SPU]
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