The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has issued what it described as “five keys” for food safety in the Caribbean and other places during the holiday season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the holiday season, food is prepared in large quantities and quite ahead of time, which increases the risks of FBDs,” said PAHO in a statement, referring to Foodborne Disease. “This holiday season will be atypical due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In order to keep families safe, PAHO urged Caribbean and other nationals to use “the five keys to prevent FBDs: Water and food are ‘safe’ when they do not contain dangerous microbes; Make sure that both you and the place where food is prepared are clean; Raw food, particularly meat, chicken, fish and their juices, may contain dangerous microbes; It is very important to cook food thoroughly; (and) Microbes multiply rapidly if cooked food is left at room temperature for more than two hours”.
PAHO said bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi, toxic chemicals or foreign physical agents, such as soil, hair or insects, are “a risk for our health”.
“A safe food is also referred to as innocuous,” it said. “Safe water is that which has received a purification treatment that removes microbes and toxic chemicals, making it safe to drink or use for food preparation. “
“Washing our hands frequently not only prevents FBDs but also COVID-19,” it added.
PAHO said dangerous microbes are in soil, air, water, animals and humans, and that these germs are transferred through hands, wipes or soiled cloths and kitchenware, particularly cutting boards.
“During the season holidays, it is common to cook with our family and/or our friends,” it said. “This year, if possible, do not follow this tradition; and, in case you do, wear the mask when preparing and serving food; limit the number of guests, and restrict the access to the areas where food is manipulated. Practice social distancing to prevent infections.”
PAHO advised to keep raw food separated from cooked food in order to prevent the transfer of microbes and to avoid cross-contamination.
In addition, PAHO said “it is very important to cook food thoroughly in order to kill the dangerous microbes it may contain”.
“Special attention should be paid to food such as ground beef, rolled meat, large chunks of meat and chicken, fish, pork, eggs and products such as mayonnaise, pastry cream, etc.,” it said. “Food should be either very hot or very cold since, at these temperatures, microbes cannot reproduce.”