Food is any food or substance or material that is consumed to provide nutritional support for the body or for pleasure. It is usually of plant or animal origin and contains essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins or minerals. It is ingested and assimilated by an organism to produce energy, stimulate growth and maintain life.
In ancient times, people obtained food from hunting and gathering, farming, ranching and fishing, known today as Agriculture. In modern times, most of the food energy consumed by the world population is supplied by the food industry operated by multinational corporations using intensive farming and industrial agricultural methods.
Foodborne illnesses usually arise from improper handling, preparation, or food storage. Good hygiene practices before, during and after food preparation can reduce the chances of contacting illness, There is a general understanding in the public health community that regular hand washing is one of the most effective defences against the spread of foodborne illness, The action of monitoring food to ensure that it will not cause foodborne illness is known as Food Safety. Foodborne disease can also be caused by a large variety of toxins that affect the environment.
Food safety is an increasingly important public health issue. Governments all over the world are intensifying their efforts to improve food safety. These efforts are in response to an increasing number of food safety problems and rising consumer concerns.
Food safety and food security are monitored by agencies such as the International Association for Food Protection, World Resource Institute, World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organisation, and International Food Information Council.
DEFINITION OF FOODBORNE ILLNESS: Foodborne illnesses are defined as diseases, usually either infectious or toxic in nature, caused by agents that enter the body through the ingestion of food. Every person is at risk of foodborne illness.
MAGNITUDE OF FOODBORNE ILLNESS: Foodborne diseases are widespread and growing public health problem, both in developed and developing countries.
The global incidence of foodborne disease is difficult to estimate, but it has been reported that in 2005 alone 1.8 million people died from diarrhoel diseases. A great proportion of these cases can be attributed to contamination of food and drinking water. Additionally, diarrhoea is a major cause of malnutrition in infants and young children
While less well documented, developing countries bear the brunt of the problem due to the presence of a wide range of foodborne diseases, including those caused by parasites . The high prevalence of diarrhoeal disease in many developing countries suggests major underlying food safety problems.
MAJOR FOODBORNE DISEASES FROM MICROORGANISMS
Salmonellosis is a major problem in most countries. Salmonellosis is caused by the Salmonella bacteria and symptoms are fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Examples of food involved in outbreaks of salmonellosis are eggs, poultry and other meats, raw milk and chocolate.
Campylobacterosis is a widespread infection. It is caused by certain species of campylobacter bacteria and in some countries, the reported number of cases surpasses the incidence of salmonellosis. Foodborne cases are mainly caused by foods such as raw milk, raw or undercooked poultry and drinking water. Acute health effects of campylobacteriosis include severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea and diarrhoea. In 2-10% of cases the infection may lead to chronic health problems, including reactive arthritis and neurological disorders.
OTHER FOOD SAFETY PROBLEMS: Some major examples
Naturally occurring toxins, such as mycotoxins, marin biotoxins, cynogenic glycosides and toxins occurring in poisonous mushrooms, periodically cause severe intoxications. Mycotoxins, such as aflatoxin and ochratoxin A, are found at measurable levels in many staple foods; the health implecations of long-term exposure of such toxins are poorly understood.
Unconventional agents such as the agent causing bovine spongiform encephalopathy(BSE, or â€œmad cow diseaseâ€Â), is associated with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob (Vcjd) Disease in humans. Consumption of bovine products containing brainbrain tissue is the most likely route for transmission of the agent to humans.
Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs) are compounds that accumulate in the environment and the human body. Known examples are Dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Dioxins are unwanted byproducts of some industrial processes and waste incineration. Exposure to POPs may result in a wide variety of adverse effects in humans.
Metals such as lead and mercury, cause neurological damage in infants and children. Exposure to cadmium can also cause kidney damage, usually seen in the elderly. These (and POPs) may contaminate food through pollution of air, water and soil.
BASIC METHODS OF ENSURING FOOD SAFETY AND PROPER HANDLING
Check for cleanliness: Buy food from a retailer who follows proper food handling practices. This helps assure that the food is safe.
Keep certain foods sepereated: Seperate raw meat, poultry, and seafoods foods ensuring that their juices do not drip on other food items.
Inspect cans and jars: Do not buy food in cans that are bulging or dented. This may mean that the food was under-processed and is contaminated. Always check the seals and ensure they are not broken.
Inspect frozen food packaging: Do not buy frozen food if the package is damamged. Packages should not be open, torn, or crushed on the edges. Also avoid packages that are above the frost line in the stores freezer/ If the package cover is transparent, look for signs of frost or ice crystals. This could mean that the food has either been stored for a long time or has been thawed and refrozen
Select frozen foods and perishables last
Choose fresh eggs carefully
Be mindful of time and temperature: It is important to refrigerate perishable products as soon as possible after shopping. Use the two hour rule ie perishable foods should not be left at room temperature longer than 2hours because harmful bacteria can multiply after that time.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Consumers play an important role in the safety of food to reduce foodborne diseases
Studies have shown that a high rate of foodborne diseases are generated in the home
JUSTIFICATION OF THE STUDY
To determine how consumers handle food in the home
To determine the extent to which consumers are aware of safety measures in handling food
To ascertain why most safety measures are not followed by consumers
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
To analyse consumer food safety studies; similarities and differences between knowledge, attitudes, intentions, self reported practices and actual behaviours.
To identify areas where food safety practices are lacking and how to reverse the problem
To review the governmentâ€™s role in reducing foodborne diseases