As a Safe Food Ambassador, Tetra Pak, I am looked upon by my family, friends, relatives and all those around me as a person who could answer just anything related to Food Safety.
There have been times when I have not justified my title, as the information that I had, was not sufficient to answer the question satisfactorily.
It is important that we as Safe Food Ambassadors have our facts clear on questions people ask us, as they look up to us for correct and justified information. That is why Tetra Pak is always working towards enchancing our knowledge base, by giving us talks, training, having us visit their factory and giving us in depth knowledge on Food and its safety.
So, having said this, our learning doesn’t end here. We go back with the acquired knowledge and then do our own research and build up more knowledge by reading books, googling, talking to nutritionists, and various other sources.
I recently faced a challenge when I was asked by a friend on how to buy what’s right for the family. How do we know about adulteration in vegetables and other eatables, how do we shop, how do we store, how do we know about packaging, etc.
That’s when I realized that Food Safety is a very vast subject and is not limited only to buying packaged food that is packed safely in Tetra Paks. There is another aspect like adulteration, hygiene and other related things.
Though I may not be able to cover the scientific knowledge behind a lot of things related to Food safety but I can list some points to clear basic issues related to Food Safety.
What is Food Safety About ?
As defined by the wiki :
Food safety is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent food borne illness. This includes a number of routines that should be followed to avoid potentially severe health hazards.
We all know that food can transmit diseases and serve as a medium for bacteria growth which can cause food poisoning.
In our developed countries we have high standards for food preparation, however in less developed countries the main issue is availability of adequate safe water which causes diseases like food poisoning, etc.
In order to avoid certain bacteria growth which causes illnesses such as food poisinig, dysentery, etc, we must follow WHO’s five keys to safer food;
- Thoroughly wash raw fruits and vegetables with tap water.
- Keep clean hands, kitchen and chopping board all the time.
Separate raw from cooked:
- Do not mix raw food and ready-to-eat food.
- Do not mix raw meat, fish and raw vegetables.
- Thoroughly cook all meat, poultry and seafood, especially shellfish.
- Reheat all leftovers until they are steaming hot.
Keep food at safe temperatures:
- Refrigerate cooked food within two hours of preparation
- Never defrost food at room temperature. Defrost frozen food in the refrigerator, cold water or in the microwave.
Use safe water and raw materials.
- Use safe drinking water for food preparation.
- Check use-by dates and labels while buying packed food.
Food Safety Tips — Handling Fruits & Vegetables
- Fresh-looking fruits and vegetables are best. Don’t buy anything this is bruised, has a leakage due to a hole, is shriveled, and smells bad. Also don’t buy vegetables which look old just because they are cheap.
- Buy only what you need as they can go bad quickly and need to be consumed within a few days.
- Throw away anything that smells bad, or is past the expiry date
- Wash all fruits and vegetables before storing them in the fridge in clean, warm water and also wash just before you use it.
- Leafy greens, such as lettuce, should be rinsed before refrigerating to maintain its crispy crunchiness
- Do not use dish soap when washing produce. Fruits and vegetables are porous and can absorb the detergent.
When shopping in the super market
- Make sure you put refrigerated foods in your shopping cart last.
For example, meat, fish, eggs, and milk should be kept in your at the end.
- When buying packaged meat, poultry, or fish, check the expiration date on the label. Don’t buy or use fish or meat that has a strange odor even if expiration date is ok.
- Place meats in plastic bags so that any juices do not leak onto other foods in your cart. Separate any raw meat, fish, or poultry from vegetables, fruit, and other foods you’ll eat raw.
- Check eggs before buying them. Make sure that none of the eggs are cracked and that they are all clean. Eggs should be grade A or AA.
- Buy Milk and Juices packed in Tetra Pak because they can be stored without refrigeration.The milk, fruit juice or cream in Tetra Paks are pasteurized at a higher temperature (132 °C.), but for a shorter time which is known as ultra-high temperature (UHT) food processing.The UHT milk or juice passes through heating and cooling stages in quick succession, then, is immediately put into a sterile Tetra pack shelf-safe carton. The end result is a product that lasts up to six months without refrigeration or preservatives. Tetra pack products are sterile and safe to consume until they’re opened. After opening it should be stored in the refrigerator. These products are labelled as ultra-pasteurized.
In the kitchen
The first things you should put away are those that belong in the refrigerator and freezer.
- Keep eggs in the original carton on a shelf in the fridge
- Most raw meat, poultry, or fish should be cooked or frozen within 2 days.
- Thaw frozen meat, poultry, and fish in the refrigerator or microwave, never at room temperature.
- For best results, use a food thermometer when cooking meat and poultry.
- Even though the kitchen might look clean, your hands, the countertops, and the utensils you use contain lots of bacteria that you can’t even see.
Storing Leftovers Safely
- Put leftovers in the fridge as soon as possible, within 2 hours. If you leave leftovers out for too long at room temperature, bacteria can quickly multiply.
- Store leftovers in containers with lids that can be snapped tightly shut. Bowls are OK for storing leftovers, but be sure to cover them tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to keep the food from drying out.
- Eat any leftovers within 3 to 4 days or freeze them.
It’s easy with your microwave to heat up or defrost stuff in an instant.
- Use only utensils and containers that are approved for use in the microwave. Most glass and ceramic containers are OK for use in the microwave, but be sure they’re labeled microwave safe. Do not use metal pans.
- Although plastic plates and bowls that are labeled microwave safe are usually OK for use in the microwave, don’t use lighter plastics like margarine tubs or cottage cheese containers. The heat can melt them, which means that some of the chemicals in the plastic can be transferred into your food.
- Waxed paper is safe for use in the microwave, but don’t ever use brown paper or brown grocery bags. And never use aluminum foil!
- When covering a plate or container with plastic wrap, try to keep the plastic wrap from touching the food.
- If you’re using the microwave to defrost foods, finish cooking them right away.
- If you’re using the microwave to cook foods, be sure to move the food inside the dish or stir it several times so it cooks thoroughly.
- If you’re using the microwave to heat leftovers or frozen meals, the food should be very hot to the touch and steaming.
HOW TO CHECK THE LABELING OF THE PRODUCT YOU BUY
Food packages have date markings to let us know how long food can be kept before it is unsafe to eat or before the quality of the food begins to deteriorate.
Food labels are there to give you information so you can choose between foods. Understanding food labels can be a tricky business, but it is worth trying to get familiar with the words and phrases used on labels. This way, you can start to make informed choices about what you eat and drink every day!
A “use-by-date” indicates the length of time that a food will remain safe to eat if properly stored and means that the food should be eaten by this date at the latest when correctly stored (for example, in a fridge at 5° Celsius or less). Perishable foods such as cooked meat products, prepared foods and salads will display a ‘use-by-date’ on the label and should not be eaten after this date has expired as this could present a health risk. Remember that when pre-packaged foods, such as cooked meats and prepared salads, are opened, the use-by date no longer applies and the food label will advise that the product should be consumed within a specified number of days – normally 2 or 3.
A “best-before-date” is more about food quality than safety, so when the date runs out it doesn’t mean that the food will be harmful, but it might begin to lose its flavour and texture. Remember, the “best-before-date” will only be accurate if the food is stored according to the instructions on the label, such as “store in a cool dry place” or keep in the fridge once opened.
A closer look
Food and drink labels normally include things like:
- The name of the food
- The list of ingredients, starting with the ingredient of greatest weight and ending with that of the lowest
- Use by and best before dates
- Country of origin (where the food was produced)
- Storage instructions
- Cooking instructions (if this applies)
- Name and address of the manufacturer, packer or seller in EU
- Alcoholic strength of alcoholic drinks
- Allergens that might be present (Remember that food allergiesshould always be diagnosed by a GP or dietitian)
What is food adulteration?
Food adulteration is an unethical and criminal malpractice which is unfortunately commonplace in countries of the South-East Asia region. Among food items, spices, due to their inherent nature–great demand and high price become easy substances for gross adulteration. Other forms of adulteration happen due to carelessness and lack in proper hygienic conditions of processing, storage, transportation and marketing. This adulteration ultimately causes the consumer to be either cheated financially or worse as a victim of illness or disease. However, adequate precautions taken by consumers at the time of purchase of such products can allow them to avoid purchasing such adulterated food.
Some examples of food adulteration are as follows;
Whole spices: Dirt, dust, other seeds
Chili powder: Brick powder, salt powder or talc, powder
Ghee/butter: vegetable ghee, animal fat, mashed potato, sweet potato, etc.
Ice cream and beverages: Saccharin
Honey: Jaggery, sugar syrup
Some examples of artificial colourants are as follows;
Sweets: Metanil yellow (a non-permitted coal tar colour)
Chili powder: Rhodamine B
Green chili, bitter gourd, green vegetables, green peas: Malachite green
Turmeric powder: Lead chromate
Food Packaging’s Role in Food Safety
Do you know that how food packaging plays is involved in food safety?
Packaging plays a vital role in ensuring the final product is safe and secure for consumption.
Most manufacturers are aware of the impact of faulty packaging on their businesses. They know that malfunctioning packaging and mistakes in the supply chain affect the quality and integrity of their product. All take steps to provide products that are safe and secure to the end user.
- Plastic packaging plays a significant role in the shelf life and ease of storage and cooking for many foods and most are safe to use provided that they are used appropriately. Some kinds of plastics materials which are widely used for handling and storage of food and water are as follows:
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is used to make soft drink, water, sports drink, ketchup, and salad dressing bottles, and peanut butter, pickle, jelly and jam jars. It is strong, heat resistant and resistant to gases and acidic foods. It can be transparent or opaque. Not known to leach any chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones and it can be recycled.
- High density polyethylene (HDPE) is used to make milk, water, and juice bottles, yogurt and margarine tubs and grocery, trash, and retail bags. High-density polyethylene is stiff and strong but is not heat stable (i.e. it melts at a relatively low temperature). Not known to leach any chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones and it can be recycled.
- Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is used to make films of various sorts, some bread and frozen food bags and squeezable bottles. Low-density polyethylene is relatively transparent. Many of the films are not heat stable either and may melt to the food if touching.
- Polypropylene (PP) is more heat resistant, harder, denser and more transparent than polyethylene so is used for heat-resistant microwavable packaging and sauce or salad dressing bottles.
- Polycarbonate is clear, heat resistant and durable and often used to make refillable water bottles and sterilisable baby bottles, microwave ovenware, eating utensils, plastic coating for metal cans. Tiny amounts of bisphenol A are formed when polycarbonate bottles are washed with harsh detergents or bleach (e.g., sodium hypochlorite). At high levels of exposure, bisphenol A is potentially hazardous because it mimics the female hormone estrogen.
- In addition, polystyrene (PS) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are also used during food material transportation and handling in supermarkets. Modern food safe plastic bags are plasticizer-free and will not release harmful chemicals into your food while it is being cooked.
Tetra Pak’s brand promise, PROTECTS WHAT’S GOOD, expresses commitment to customers and consumers across the world.
The aseptic package technology that they use means that food and drink can be distributed and stored without refrigeration or preservatives for many months, which is vital for achieving their vision: to make food safe and available, everywhere.
Food safety is their number one priority. They ensure their packages contain no unwanted bacteria, chemicals or other unsafe ingredients so that they protect the contents hygienically and preserve their nutritional value.
Aseptic technology offers several advantages over other preservation methods, including the variety of possible package shapes, economies in energy and packaging materials, and improved consumer convenience. Often, aseptic packaging also improves quality because food products generally change less than with other preservation methods.
Tetra Pak is also a pioneer in the development of food safety technologies, such as juice pasteurisation and ultra-high temperature (UHT) treatment. This sterilises food by heating it for around two–four seconds, at a temperature exceeding 135°C (275°F) – high enough to kill all hazardous bacteria and spores in milk. Their One Step technology combines several processes that also reduce CO2 emissions, water consumption and operating costs.
Did you know?
- Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.
- Foodborne and waterborne diarrhoea diseases kill an estimated 2 million people worldwide annually, including many children.
- A single foodborne bacterium can grow into more than two million bacteria in just seven hours under the right conditions.
- Foodborne pathogen called Listeria can survive and sometimes grow on foods being stored in the refrigerator.
- Hepatitis A virus can cause long-lasting liver disease and spreads typically through raw or undercooked seafood or contaminated raw produce.
- It is estimated that more than 250 million people worldwide suffer food allergies.
- The boiling temperature (smoke point) of cooking oil is above 200 °C.
- The boiling point of water is 100 °C.
SO LETS BE OUR OWN AMBASSADORS IN KEEPING OUR FOOD SAFE FOR OUR FAMILY BY FOLLOWING BASIC STEPS TO FOOD SAFETY!
Your inputs in this topic are welcome for me to add into my wirteups!